As a leader, are you committed to “relentless self-control and positive work habits?” In the book The Disciplined Leader, author John Manning makes the case for discipline, writing that effective leaders employ “consistent application of certain mindsets and actions that are vital for [their] success.”
Yet, as Manning found when he began conducting research for this book, some people were squeamish about the word “discipline.” For some, it felt too rigid or conjured images of ruler-wielding school teachers. Manning acknowledges this aversion to the negative elements of discipline, yet also offers the benefits to be found: organizational success. Manning, President of Management Action Programs (a business consultancy), has worked with thousands of executives. He’s seen how a) discipline must start with the leadership team and b) “consistent adherence to certain mindsets ultimately develops and dries the very best leaders and businesses.”
The book is divided into three sections:
- Lead Yourself
- Lead Your Team
- Extend Your Reach
Here are excerpts from the book that I particularly enjoyed:
Worrying is not a solution. As a person who tends to fret overly much about certain things, I could certainly relate to this! Manning observes that sometimes we get stuck in the act of worrying (“What if ‘X’ happens?” . . . “What if ‘Y’ happens?”) that we don’t focus on finding a way out of the challenge we currently face.
During a dark hour, replace helplessness with hope. There are times in an organization when employees feel as if there is nothing that can be done to rectify a dire situation. Manning points out that workplace culture has a way of taking on the “personality” of its strongest leaders, so it’s vital that those in leadership position exhibit “consistent strength and optimistic, powerful messaging.”
Lead Your Team
Spot opportunities to coach. Within this chapter, Manning offers three specific scenarios under which leaders would be well-advised to capitalize on coaching their employees. Writes Manning, “While telling our employees how to do something might seem like the fasted, easiest way to develop them, it’s not the best approach.” He acknowledges that coaching takes time and discipline, but it’s what’s needed if leaders want to develop their employees’ skills.
Extend Your Reach
From a conceptual standpoint, the notion of “extend your reach” was one of my favorite parts of this book. In this third segment of the book, Manning writes about the responsibility that leaders have to the organization as a whole. He encourages leaders to think beyond the specific team they lead, and to move towards “growing your impact throughout the organization.” Throughout this section, there are tips for creating leadership impact through attention to culture, building strong internal relationships and fostering customer loyalty.
Manning stresses the element of “focus” in this book, citing the ability to hone in on what he calls the “Vital Few” actions that will achieve the greatest impact. To that end, he invites the reader to scan his book of 52 “concise, powerful lessons,” choose a handful, and set about making those actions a daily priority.
As an alternative practice for using this book, I could envision using each chapter as a weekly reflection activity. The book conveniently contains 52 chapters, so it easily fits into a weekly format. Each chapter is brief – not more than four pages – and includes suggested tips for application. The messages contained within each chapter are easy to digest and provide just enough thought-provoking text to encourage reflection.
The Disciplined Leader is a broad treatment of many important leadership topics, rather than a deep-dive. If you’re seeking a thought-provoking book that provides easy-to-digest tidbits from a seasoned executive consultant, this is a good choice.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review. Also, some of the links are affiliate links, meaning if you click the link and make a purchase, I may receive compensation. This doesn’t increase the price of your item and I only review books that I believe my readers will benefit from.