So you want to be a top-notch leader? There are any number of expensive videos, weekend courses, “Ten Steps to…” books, and personal gurus tweeting motivational quotes. Someone is always ready to tell you what (and how much money) it takes to lead the teaming masses to greater and greater heights. If you are already a world-renowned leader then congratulations, you can stop close this window and get back to being a big wig.
If not, then you might want to keep reading because it turns out that before you can take anyone to the promise land, before you can master the intricacies of leadership, you need to first master yourself. If your own life lacks clarity, if poor decision-making and uncertainty plague your choices, then those you are attempting to lead will be adversely affected by your personal chaos.
No one is demanding that you lead a life of perfection; such a thing does not exist, but leadership does demand that you first get your own demons and doubts in relative order before you take any action. In the words of the influential 20th century poet O’Shea Jackson (Ice Cube), you need to “check yo self before you wreck yo self.”
Of course Mr. Jackson/Cube may not be your cup of tea, so here are a few other luminaries of thought and their take on how self-discipline and leadership go hand in hand.
1. “The first and best victory is to conquer self.”
2. “Observe all men; thy self most.”
— Benjamin Franklin
3. “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
4. “You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.”
— Jim Whittaker
5. “Beware of endeavoring to become a great man in a hurry. One such attempt in ten thousand may succeed. These are fearful odds.”
— Benjamin Disrael
6. Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.
— Abraham J. Heschel
7. “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”
— Lao Tzu
8. “Rule your mind or it will rule you.”
9. “It is not enough to have great qualities; We should also have the management of them.”
— La Rochefoucauld
10. “Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”
— Henry Ward Beecher