In almost all my leadership programs, one question that pops up continuously is, “Are leaders made or born?” In my view they are neither born nor made. Leaders are self made. The good news is Leaders are NOT born. We can all be leaders in our own area of work and life. The critical news is that leaders are SELF made. The key is to know what you want and then work at it relentlessly, continuously irrespective of whatever happens in the environment. Once a very learned person told me that the three key steps to success are: (1) identify the ‘Masters’ of your chosen area of interest (2) observe their professional routine and (3) relentlessly follow the same routine, and you will notice the change. So simple and yet so profound! The magic word is Discipline.
When it comes to knowledge, there is no dearth of it. We all know what we should and should not do. We’re fairly clear on solutions to our daily problems. However, when it comes to implementation, do we hear ourselves saying, “I deserve this extra sleep, I’ve had a late night; Pending work is okay, I’m anyways overworked; It’s alright to reach a little late for an appointment, everyone is aware of the dismal traffic situation!” Look a little closely at yourself when others around you do not meet their commitments. For instance a vendor or an interview candidate does not reach on time and you’re waiting; or your school going daughter wants to sleep a little extra; or your father wants an extra scoop of ice-cream knowing fully well he’s diabetic. Well, in all these situations, you may hit the roof!
What this leaves me with is that if we’re busy disciplining others around us, we may be able to get jobs done on time and well. We will surely become good managers. However, it is only when we discipline ourselves, that we discover the power of leadership. Self-discipline is best defined as the ability to regulate one’s behavior and not giving in to impulse, desire or other distractions. The Greek philosopher Plato said ‘The first and the best victory is to conquer self’.
This learning became more profound, when I was sitting with a close friend and an old client who owns a company worth INR 2000cr. He and two of his brothers are second generation entrepreneurs who inherited a small business and expanded it exponentially within last few years. They realized they required to hire professionals to take their organization to the next orbit. They went through the whole rigmarole of hiring a search agency, and got a senior executive with all the right qualifications and labels, to head their marketing function. This friend just jokingly told me about his marketing head that if he made one presentation in any forum, the next day he would send a message that he was really tired and would take a day off! He said, “In our family, there’s no history of taking offs. It is now that my brother and I have started taking Sunday offs and that day also we roam around sheepishly at home as none of our brothers takes any day off, everyday day we work for more than 12 hr!” While we may debate on the higher order needs like work- life balance, we cannot undermine the fact that they decided what they wanted and followed the routine till it became a habit.
Success is not the result of big things done on a special day; it is the result of small things done every day. Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
Over the years, I have compiled the list of some common disciplines successful business executives follow. Almost all of them follow a discipline in the area of health, be it morning walks or some game. They follow the discipline of reading. Almost every one reads regularly, most preferred time is just before going to sleep. They read on diverse topics and not just business. They all are disciplined in the use of time. They are almost always on time.
So what is your daily code of conduct. Make a list of all those small things you would do to conquer yourself!