"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln
The biggest leadership challenges I ever faced in my career invariably ended up within me. While the initial problems may have been external, the battle to solve the problem was fought in both my mind and heart. This internal struggle by a leader to know, do, and be the right thing, at the right time, becomes the true test of character.
Leadership trouble erupts when the external problems overwhelm the internal abilities and emotions, usually as a result of insufficiently developed good leadership habits and self-disciplines. While literally any dummy can be a good leader during great times by maintaining the status quo, true leadership is tested during times of tremendous stress, strife, change and conflict. Just like a top athlete who is paid to perform for the entire season, the athlete earns his or her pay in the critical moments of a championship game. This game-ready leadership state starts with developing and then maintaining tremendous levels of self-discipline compounded by systems that do not fail while under stress.
I first noticed this in the corporate world, while starting my career in a 1,400 person high-volume, advanced electronics manufacturing facility, which was an incredibly fast-paced and stressful environment. Some of our skilled, long-term production supervisors could withstand almost any chaos that came their way (fires, fights, equipment breakdowns, etc.) with inner calm, the new supervisors (myself included) had not developed that inner fortitude.
Over the years and through subsequent executive roles, I realized that I needed to develop myself to a high level of self-discipline and good habits, in order to exude confidence and calm to others for whom I had the responsibility of leading.
This has been a lifelong project, and today, I want with you to share the three most important principles that helped me develop self-leadership.
Self-leadership Principle #1: Make self-discipline a priority