Consistent discipline for credible leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Leslie Best
  • 17th Mission Support Group
If I was to name an aspect or personal belief dealing with leadership that has impacted me greatly, I'd have to say it would be consistency through the practice of discipline. I believe this to be realized through three distinct characteristics; practical application, setting the example, and using a measured restraint.

I feel these characteristics may be applied at all levels of the leadership ladder to include the commander, supervisor or manager, and even the single Airmen who supervises no one. With discipline and using these characteristics consistently, the result is credible leadership. It is said "A single act of integrity makes an impression, but a leader's behavior must be consistent if he or she is to successfully shape an organization." (Fogleman) When shaping an organization, each person must see him or herself as a leader and through consistent discipline practice the aforementioned characteristics of leadership to ensure they develop themselves and those around them to achieve higher goals.

The first characteristic involves the ability to apply a consistent discipline. Application is a very important aspect of the leadership practice. Leaders must apply discipline in their walk and be consistent in how they enforce standards in an organization. Leaders must strive to maintain self-discipline and above all, they must practice what they preach. In addition, they must continually apply these standards evenly across the workforce. Their policies and direction should be well known to their subordinates and consistently practiced. A leader cannot afford to let personal bias play a role in how they treat an issue. Favoritism is easily perceived and your subordinates are continually on the watch for it in your leadership walk. A good rule to remember is "familiarity breeds contempt." Being subjective in a situation becomes a rarity instead of the norm when consistent leadership is properly applied.

The second characteristic in developing as a leader is setting the example. This is crucial in the leadership practice. Leader's lead by example and in order to be role models they must pay particular attention to what they believe is important. It means showing others through their behavior they not only live their personal moral values, but they also uplift and hold dear the Air Force core values. Leaders must have the moral courage to be consistently sincere and honest regardless of present company and widely opposing view points.

It would be hard for a leader to tell their Airmen to support organizational/base/community activities if they are never present.

In like manner, it would be useless for one to talk a high-moral behavior if they are seen compromising their very own words. While these two previous characteristics are bedrocks for proper leadership, one cannot forget to use a measure of restraint when developing as a leader.

Restraint keeps one from acting upon impulse and ruining hard established credibility.

Through the practice of, and the use of discipline in dealing with issues, one will find it guards against over-emotion which can play an insidious role and threaten the pillars outlined above. It teaches a rational measured thought process should be exercised when dealing with issues which results in a consistency that does not use a broadsword approach of being harsh nor lenient, but instead, a proud set of values written upon a leader's character for all to see. Restraint lends itself to a limited use of compromise and will result in allowing leaders to exhibit more clearly their stance on values and issues so that others may measure them by these values.

When an Airman approaches a leader on an issue, he or she should not be surprised by the leader's actions or response and certainly a leader should not have the reputation of Airmen asking themselves "I wonder what mood the boss is in today"? You must maintain a controlled mannerism as issues are continually changing.

Application, setting the example and measured restraint are deeply important and set the foundation for proper leadership, but used alone, or only on occasion, can spell disaster for anyone using them and as such will usually leave a wake of frustration and dissension for those whom they lead.

One must again discipline oneself and use these characteristics consistently to ensure a measure of success in their quest to become a better leader. Consistency through discipline places its stamp of credibility when partnered with the aforementioned characteristics, as it would be useless for a leader who is consistent if he or she is not credible.