We all want the freedom to explore new ideas and the opportunity to become the best versions of ourselves. But freedom doesn’t mean a lack of discipline. Discipline in leadership, systems and protocol within an organisation can lead to more freedom and is an essential element for both personal and professional success.
In leaders, discipline is demonstrated through focus, perseverance, professionalism, self-control and behaving in accordance to the culture they want to cultivate. When team members mirror this discipline, there is a cumulative effect within the organisation, where adherence to operating procedures and systems help to grease the wheels of collaboration, performance and innovation.
Discipline creates the structure that enables growth and forward movement for individuals and the organisation as a whole. For instance, culture-driven organisations often establish a set of core values to act as guidelines for behavioural expectations. In addition to modelling the desired behaviour, the leaders within an organisation must reinforce these behaviours using a system of recognition and reward. Likewise, it’s important for leaders to take swift action if someone behaves in a way that doesn’t align with the established culture, its values and the desired behaviours, or risk sending mixed messages to the rest of the organisation that erode the cultural foundation.
The idea of discipline might sound rigid, but it doesn’t mean sacrificing the flexibility to evolve. Sure we need operating procedures, systems and guidelines to provide a baseline for how we get things done as an organisation. Flexibility can become a discipline all of its own, wherein we commit to learning from mistakes, acknowledging when something isn’t working, and making the necessary adjustments.
While discipline can ensure clarity and efficiency, discipline without the temperance of flexibility can lead to systemic breakdowns. Consider the project-based team who has developed a plan but along the way they discover new information that could impact the outcome of their project. In this case, the discipline is not in dogged attachment to the plan, but rather in the ability to adapt to the new information.
In this way, the practice of discipline can help get everyone on the same page, while also allowing space for freedom, creativity and innovation. There is no benefit in discipline and bureaucracy for its own sake. Instead, the secret lies in creating defined systems and allow for the flexibility of responsive change and continuous improvement.
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