I once worked for a manager who was a train wreck. She was a nice enough person, but she was completely disorganized.
You could never count on her for anything. Meetings would be cancelled at the last minute. Priorities were always shifting. We’d commit to a plan of action on a project, only to have the timelines change or watch everything being pushed to the back burner because we just couldn’t get our ducks in a row.
Her poor executive assistant spent all her time booking and rebooking meetings. As a result, this manager would go through a new assistant every six months.
One day I was in her office having a meeting. During the discussion she got up to get a binder from her credenza and there staring at me was her laptop. Her inbox was a solid block of unopened emails.
I gasped. It was clear she lacked discipline and it was completely undermining her ability to lead us.
In my work as a leadership advisor, I always engage my clients about the relationship between good management and good leadership. It seems we’ve been conditioned to think of them as two very different things. That sometimes, great managers are not always great leaders, and vice versa.
Over the years working closely with leaders, I’ve come to believe that great leaders must also be great managers.
Strong management skills are the cornerstones of strong leadership. Yes, leaders need to be charismatic, innovative and visionary. However, they also need to know how to get things done.
Do you lack discipline as a leader? Here are some tell tale signs:
1) You can’t manage your calendar if your life depended on it. This isn’t simply about good time management; it’s about having the discipline to be where you say you are going to be, and making sure your people know where you are at all times.
2) You lack follow through. You announce with great fanfare that you will be initiating some kind of new practice or strategy. You get everyone energized and excited, but then you don’t deliver. The great ideas die and your credibility gets damaged. The people you lead quickly learn that they can’t count on you.
3) You continually shift priorities. This one is a real killer for the people you lead. Here’s a simple test – ask your direct reports what’s important for the business and you’ll get ten different answers. This is because you are always shifting what’s important and often on a whim. Your people can’t make rhyme or reason of things.
If you are a disorganized leader, you’re probably already dismissing these concerns as meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Don’t be fooled – a lack of discipline can be costly to your organization.
A lack of discipline creates tremendous uncertainty for the people you lead. Your lack of preparation creates an environment where crisis reigns supreme. A colleague of mine who suffered under a disorganized manager once said: “I simply show up every day waiting for the next urgent matter to tackle. Whatever!”
It erodes your ability to build momentum and traction. You have tons of projects that have been started, but nothing gets completed.
Finally, it kills your credibility as a leader. You become irrelevant to your team because they can’t count on you.
This week’s Gut Check question asks: Do you have the discipline to be a great leader?
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