The Disciplined Leader
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” - Walt Disney
When it comes to athletic leadership, discipline does not mean punishing people. Rather, discipline refers to being in complete control of your emotions. A highly effective leader must be self-disciplined in all areas. Discipline should encompass every area of the leader’s life.
Consider these 3 areas:
Health. Leaders know that they must be in good health if they’re going to effectively lead others. They discipline themselves to eat in healthy ways, exercise and make other smart health-related choices.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you eat healthy foods?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you get sufficient sleep?
Time. Perhaps more than anything else, athletic administrators must be disciplined with their time. They must be able to get things done efficiently, focusing on the job in front of them and making swift progress through their to-do list. It’s easy to get sidetracked during the day, but the best leaders are able to maintain focus.
Ask yourself these questions.
- Do you allow yourself to be easily distracted during the day?
- Do you have specific goals you’re focused on achieving?
- Do you have a system for ensuring that you make progress on your to-do list?
Vision. Athletic Directors are disciplined to stay focused on their vision. They don’t let other “shiny” objects distract them from their ultimate purpose and vision. They ensure that they and those who follow them stay laser-focused on getting the right things done.
Ask yourself these questions. Do you…
- Have a single-minded focus on your overall vision?
- Become easily distracted from your most important tasks?
- Consistently remind both yourself and your followers of your vision?
Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
In other words, you’ll never achieve your highest and greatest goals if you’re not disciplined. If, on the other hand, you’re able to hold yourself to the highest standards, you’ll achieve success beyond your wildest dreams.
Why is discipline important as a leader?
Self-discipline is utilized by athletic leaders to sharpen their decision-making skills, to earn the respect of coaches, students and parents. and to lead by example to achieve their athletics department goals.
Discipline leads to more control over every aspect in your role as an athletics administrator.. Discipline creates great leaders. One of the most difficult things for many people is getting out of bed in the morning. When your feet hit the floor early in the morning after a late night school event, what motivates you to seize the day? What is your purpose? What is your Why?
Advice from the DNA AD Pool
Intentional - “Find ways to demonstrate your intent in all you do. Some teams are lucky – but perhaps it’s always intentional based on their hard work, practice, and putting themselves in a position to have a little luck. Be intentional in your statements to others. ‘It’s good to see you today,’ ‘I’m so glad you are here,’ ‘I’m excited to work on this project with you’ – those small deposits of intentional gratitude will pay huge dividends!” Dr. John Krogstrand, Director of Athletics, Omaha Public Schools
Result Oriented - “Everything we do should be with a purpose, but sometimes we must be creative in finding what those purposes might be. Measure success in terms of measurables for that specific situation, and not simply the scoreboard or final standings, but rather in qualitative terms as well.” Dr. John Krogstrand, Director of Athletics, Omaha Public Schools
“Discipline is doing what needs to be Done, even when you do not want to do it.” - Unknown
Continuous Growth - “To me, being an AD is a mindset. In anything you do or anything you are a part of you never want to be stagnant. You always want to reach that next goal or next peak. Sometimes, Continuous Growth doesn't always have an upward trend, the challenges and downfalls sometimes provide you with the most growth of all. It's all in the journey.” Madison Melchert, Dallas Center-Grimes Assistant Athletics Director
Organized – “The number 1 skill for the International AD is organization. Whatever tool you use you need to be super organized. I am lucky that through my sporting career I developed this skill; it has helped me tremendously in becoming a competent AD.” Jeffrey Koops C.M.A.A., Director of Athletics International School of Ulaanbaatar
Durable - “There are three components to durability in the profession as an athletics administrator First Component: Mental Durability - Be able to maintain a mental edge in being able to influence all of those you interact with in order to get the results desired. Second Component: Physical Durability - Be physically willing to work 12-14 hour days and be ready to go to work the next day. Third Component: Emotional Durability - Be durable in balancing family responsibilities to professional responsibilities.” Al Lammers, Norwalk Athletics Director
Organized - “An effective athletic director must be organized. From countless daily emails to calendar events, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the juggling of different responsibilities and hats we wear. Having an effective organizational system in place enables tasks to be managed allowing the AD to be confident that they are performing in a positive and productive manner.” Jonathan Winer C.M.A.A. CREC, Magnet Schools Athletics Director
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action.”
- Vince Lombardi
Focused - “There are two types of effective focus. Rifle focus – be specifically paying attention to one issue such that they are the only thing you are focused on. Give yourself 100% to the moment. Be present in your dealings – put your cell phone away and show that laser focus on someone you’re having a conversation with and see how intense and positive that interpersonal interaction becomes. Shotgun focus – Dedicate yourself to finding ways to affect many different areas when you can/as necessary. Multitask. Find ways to coordinate with others and make an effect on as many as you possibly can.” Dr. John Krogstrand, Director of Athletics, Omaha Public Schools
Get Comfortable, Being Uncomfortable…
As athletics administrators we all want more discipline than we have. Discipline requires dealing with discomfort, which is something we all instinctively avoid. Much like overcoming any adversity in life, discipline requires us to focus on our purpose and let go of those issues we cannot control. However, all the amazing things you want to achieve will require at least a little discipline.
Without discipline, luck is your only other option. Luck is great, but it is a poor strategy in reaching your goals. Discipline in your roles as an athletics director is a tremendous advantage to have.
Use these techniques to create the life you desire with discipline:
- Practice dealing with discomfort. Discipline is uncomfortable because you’re either doing something that you don’t want to do right now or you’re avoiding doing something that you want to do right now. Neither one is as enjoyable in the moment as following your impulses.
- When you feel discomfort, notice where you feel it in your body. Describe it to yourself. What does it feel like? Continue objectively observing it until it goes away. It will go away.
- Examine your excuses. What are the excuses you give yourself for eating that ice cream, staying up late, skipping the gym, or not getting your work done? How do you justify your lack of discipline?
- Choose your goal wisely. A highly meaningful goal is much more motivating than one you feel lukewarm about. You’ll do more and endure more to achieve a goal that means a lot to you. Life is too short to spend your time on anything less than goals that are spectacular to you.
- Do it every day. Practice discipline each and every day. You can make yourself stare at the wall for 10 minutes. Make yourself sit up straight at work. See if you can actually work for 30 minutes without checking your email or phone.
- There are plenty of opportunities to build your discipline muscles!
- Reward your successes. When you successfully show a new level of discipline, give yourself a reward.
- Do it earlier in the day. Discipline tends to be higher in the morning. Use that to your advantage if possible.
- Have a plan for when you falter. What will you do when you start to lose your discipline? What is your plan when you have the urge to fall into an AD catatonic state, push off a project that you know you should work on, or allow a program to do something you know they shouldn’t?
- Will you call someone?
- Go for a run?
- Take a nap?
- Listen to your favorite song?
- What are you going to do?
- Incremental progress is acceptable. A little progress each day is more than enough. Big changes rarely stick unless life and limb are at risk. Be thrilled with making consistent progress.
- Focus on the action rather than the desired outcome. If you want to lose weight, the scale matters. However, it’s even more important to follow your diet day in and day out. It’s more important to keep saving part of your athletic budget than to have a specific balance.
- Keep doing the right things and the results are guaranteed.
“Discipline is the bridge between your goals and your success.”
We admire leaders with high levels of discipline. We often associate discipline with elite soldiers or Buddhist monks, but most people can train to have just as much discipline as either of these groups. Remember that discipline simply means choosing the future you desire over the thing you desire in this moment.
Your level of discipline impacts the quality of your future. Are you willing to give up short-term gratification for a better future?
About Scott Garvis
Scott Garvis has been a leader and innovator in intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics development and fundraising for more than 25 years – as an athletics director, coach, association board member, adviser and editorial contributor.
Scott has a record of excellence as Athletics Director, Director of Activities and Assistant Principal, having led the athletics departments at six high schools or school districts in three states. He has achieved unparalleled success at all levels of high school athletics: large public school districts, a small public high school, a private school, and with state and national athletics administrator associations.