“Self-discipline is the foundation of freedom. It is the foundation of greatness, achievement, heroism, leadership, sanctity, and vibrant and flourishing communities and nations…”  Matthew Kelly

Leaders grow people by first growing themselves.  To neglect the most basic rule of self-growth before leading others is folly. Start with yourself and understand your own needs and wants, strengths and weaknesses.  Before you’ll achieve any public victory of note there must always be the private victory of self-growth which starts with self-discipline.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will your personal foundations for leadership be constructed overnight.  It takes time, planning and the application of several key principles.

All too often we want the quick fix.  We have the tendency to think we can ignore our own discipline and development today and that we’ll take care of it tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow.  And so goes our whole lives.  Until we realize where leadership begins we’ll never have a long term positive impact.

Look in the mirror.  Would you trust, support and enthusiastically follow yourself?  Would you be willing to share your time, energy and talents in the pursuit of the vision and goals you are advocating?  People don’t expect perfection in their leadership.  Just something that closely resembles it.

“Take heed unto thyself” is an important and very powerful truth for anyone aspiring towards leadership.  It isn’t a selfish attitude that ignores the needs of others.  It is a realization that personal growth and development enable the leader to more effectively serve others.

“Self-assessment is the first action requirement of leadership: the constant re-sharpening, constant refocusing, never really being satisfied.”  Peter F. Drucker

Developing character that can withstand the rigors of change and stress is like growing a mighty oak tree.  It requires time and the proper elements for growth.  Here are three elements for self-growth and personal excellence in character development.

Be Actively Accountable
Harry Truman had a great saying on his desk; ‘The buck stops here’.  Today it’s a “pass the buck” society where few are willing to accept accountability for their actions. Personal responsibility is the first step in taking charge of your life.

Most people seem to want the government, their parents, their spouse, their boss or their friends to take the responsibility for their actions and their life.  Until you become actively accountable for who you are, where you are and what you are you’ll never go far.

An old poem closes with the following stanza:
You may fool the world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back, as you pass;
But your only reward will be heartache and tears,
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass. 

The man (or woman) in the glass is you.  Are you taking personal accountability for your own life and actions?

Paint Your Self-Portrait
Many great artists have done at least one self-portrait.  Some did many of them over a period of years detailing their own change and self-growth.  In developing these portraits they had to look closely at themselves seeing their flaws and imperfections.  Leaders must be aware of themselves, both their strengths and their weaknesses.

Seeing only the good or only the bad is a false and distorted picture.  How you see yourself today will in many ways determine where you see yourself tomorrow.  Focus on your strengths, but don’t ignore your weaknesses expecting them to disappear on their own.  Have you determined a clear, detailed and colorful vision for yourself?  Are you following a detailed and disciplined plan for personal and professional development?

Strengthen and Renew Yourself
Mental, physical and spiritual nourishment and exercise are prerequisites to a balanced healthy life.  Reading educational and inspirational material feeds the mind.  A good diet coupled with physical exercise using aerobic, strength building and flexibility regimens balances the bodily needs for renewal.  Prayer and meditation enhance the spiritual aspects of our lives giving acknowledgment to our creator. Stephen Covey referred to this as the ‘seventh habit’ of highly effective people.  How are you using and practicing self-renewal to sharpen your saw and make your productivity as strong and vibrant as possible?

Combining and consistently practicing these three elements of self-growth will absolutely bring you outstanding results in your pursuit of excellence as a leader.  Practice them and see for yourself.

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.”  – Harry S. Truman


Author: George Hendley
Instructor, Brightwing

George is a speaker, trainer and coach. Learn more about the instructor-led courses Brightwing offers. For a complete list of courses and detailed course outlines call 888-521-2478, ext. 317 or email Jenny.