Disciplined Leadership

Being an entrepreneurial leader requires the person to be able to lead and get the job done. Leadership is not a title or a position. It is the ability to be a change-maker every day in one way or another. We can be leaders in our homes or in our communities, whenever we are engaged in influencing change. As leaders, we are sometimes required to lead others as well as to follow others. This requires a degree of discipline.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as one who follows or attends upon another for the express purpose of learning. Note that a disciple is one who both follows and learns, as the following scriptures highlight:

. . . I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12; emphasis added)

A disciplined leader is one who focuses on those things that are important; leading themselves, leading their families, leading their organization/team.

In an article by the Acton Foundation called, “Message to Garcia”, the author describes a situation where a letter from President William McKinley has to be delivered to General Calixto Garcia. The letter is given to Colonel Andrew Rowan because of his reputation as someone who will accomplish the mission quickly and efficiently, with minimum oversight. The ability to execute a task successfully is more valuable than education or talent, because it is so rare.

The author asks why more people aren’t self-starters today? Who are they that can stay on task until the job is finished? It appears that the passion from within appears to have disappeared, they conclude, and today there are many people who are lost, or not living up to their potential.

In his book, “Good to Great” the author Jim Collins shows why some companies make the leap to greatness, and others don’t. After researching various companies that had exceeded general stock market performance over a 15 year period, he found that great companies all had certain things in common. These are:

  1. Level 5 Leadership – People who build greatness in their companies by applying a mixture of personal humility and professional will.
  1. First who, then what – The great companies employ great leaders and they in turn determine what their most important objectives should be.
  1. Confront true facts – The great companies openly discuss the harsh realities facing them in the markets in which they operate, and adjust their strategies accordingly.
  1. Hedgehog Concept – Great companies consistently do what they do best and avoid getting distracted into new fields of business that are outside of their core competencies.
  1. Culture of Discipline – Great companies combine a culture of disciplined thought with an entrepreneurial ethic to generate successful performances
  1. Technology Accelerator – Great companies link technology with their hedgehog concept, i.e. they use new technologies to help them accelerate their core business.

Quotations from Jim Collins book, “Good to Great”;

  • “Good is the enemy of great – life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority have become quite good – and that is their main problem.
  •  “Good-to-great management teams debate vigorously but then unify behind decisions, regardless of parochial interests.”
  • “Yes, leadership is about vision. But leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is heard and brutal facts confronted.
  •  “When you conduct autopsies without blame, you go a long way toward creating a climate where the truth is heard.
  •  “The good-to-great companies are more like hedgehogs – simple, dowdy creatures that “know one big thing” and stick to it. The comparison companies are more like foxes – crafty, cunning creatures that know many things yet lack consistency.
  •  “‘Stop doing’ lists are more important than ‘to do’ lists.”
  • “When all the pieces come together, not only does your work move towards greatness, but so does your life. For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life.

 Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, speaking at Stanford University on 3/11/2011, spoke of companies that built their success on trust in their relationships and attitudes. He urged individuals to be trustworthy and compared them to bakers who seek to bake pies for people. Other people are eaters, consumers who give nothing back. He said that we contribute to trust when we default to “yes”.

Frank Levinson of the Finisar Corporation said (October 31, 2001) that the characteristics of the team members and the culture of the company were vital to its success. A team member displaying unethical behavior can cause stress and tension within the leadership which will ultimately divide the company.

Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard, speaking at Stanford University in May 2, 2007, said that leadership is about 3 things: capability, collaboration and character. Capability, she emphasized, is about asking questions and listening for answers. It is about taking initiative, trying new things, and celebrating new ideas. A continuous learning process, she said, is important to strengthen the entrepreneur’s abilities.


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