Much has been written about the qualities and characteristics of Authentic Leaders. But one essential quality of Authentic Leadership is seldom discussed. 

That quality is self-discipline. Developing the quality of self-discipline is part of leading yourself. Leaders sometimes forget this fact but if a person can’t lead themselves it is almost certain they can’t lead anyone else. 

Building self-discipline requires that you understand, develop and follow your priorities. If you can’t clearly state what your priorities are you will always struggle with time management. People who tell me “they don’t have time” get frustrated with me when I challenge that statement. The fact is they have as much time as any person on this planet. They struggle to get things done because they don’t understand their priorities. 

Not understanding their priorities causes people to spend time on seemingly urgent tasks rather than investing their time on important things. It’s the important things that pay long-term dividends. When you get your time under control you’re on your way to living a self-disciplined life. 

To further develop your self-discipline you need to challenge your excuses. That process begins by understanding the difference between an excuse and a reason. The example I most often use to explain this difference is being late. 

If you show up late, to anything, and say, “sorry I’m late but the traffic was brutal” that’s an excuse. An excuse indicates that you accept no responsibility for your tardiness. It also shows you have no intention of doing anything different to prevent it from happening again. 

If you show up late and say, “sorry I’m late, the traffic was brutal and I failed to take traffic into account this time of day. I’ll pay more attention to that next time.” That is an example of a reason. It indicates that you accept responsibility for being late and you will take steps to try and prevent it from happening again. 

Excuses are plentiful and easy to find…or make up. Just remember people who are good at making excuses aren’t very good at making progress. If you allow yourself too many excuses you’ll limit your ability to life a disciplined lifestyle. 

Living that disciplined lifestyle requires that you focus on results. Success is a process and results often come slowly. Success seldom follows a straight line, it’s more of a zig zag. Accept all results as a win, no matter how small and no matter how slowly they arrive. 

Living a disciplined lifestyle can seem like a daunting task. It may feel like we can’t be disciplined and have fun. Develop the mindset that being disciplined is fun itself. Also realize that you don’t have to be disciplined every day, you only need to be disciplined one day…and that day is today. When you wake up tomorrow you’ll discover that tomorrow is another today. 

As a leader you likely want the people you lead to be disciplined as well. It is vital, and this is why self-discipline is such an essential quality of Authentic Leadership, it is vital that you always keep in mind that you are the model of successful behavior for your people. 

If you don’t display self-discipline then don’t expect to see it from anyone you lead either.