Navigating Discipline, Desire, & Self-Belief in Leadership

Discover why discipline and leadership training are crucial in our conversation with Bobby Harrington, a seasoned leader with a 34-year journey across various sectors. As the founder of the Rubicon Course of Action (COA), Bobby shares invaluable insights into discipline, self-trust, and self-belief in leadership. Join us as we explore the iterative process of building leadership confidence, and Bobby’s inspiring journey, including his discipline-driven path to writing a book after returning to school at 47 years old.


coworkers seated at the front at a convention - discipline


Stronger You Leadership Coaching 

Bobby understands the gap in leadership training, especially for those transitioning from high school to college or university. While some may naturally possess charisma and a strong work ethic, true leadership requires a structured framework and the discipline to keep improving. The Stronger You Leadership Coaching addresses this by guiding individuals through character development, values identification, and broader leadership concepts like managing people, processes, missions, and business plans. The program emphasizes continuous growth and the discipline to follow through because, like any skill, leadership evolves with ongoing learning. Bobby believes that traits, attributes, and values need constant nurturing; otherwise, they diminish over time. Stronger You is designed to help individuals have the discipline to consistently work on these essential aspects of leadership, filling the gap in leadership training and development.


Culture As a Reflection of Leadership

Leadership behavior shapes organizational culture profoundly. Whether in the military, sports, or corporate giants like Chevron, a leader’s demeanor sets the tone. Values play a significant role too, but it’s not just about stating them—it’s about leaders living and embodying those values daily. Discipline ensures that these values are consistently upheld, guiding leaders in making ethical decisions and fostering a culture of integrity within their teams.

Sadly, studies show that only a small percentage of leaders truly follow company values. A study presented at the 2015 annual International Management Consultants Conference revealed that just 10% of leaders actually adhere to company values. This disconnect between leadership behavior and organizational values contributes to high failure rates among executives, especially in critical areas like change management and strategic decision-making. Therefore, instilling a sense of discipline in leaders to align their actions with stated values is crucial.

One of the key concerns Bobby highlighted is the pattern of leaders either not staying in their roles long enough or remaining for extended periods. He pointed out that staying too briefly, such as just 18 to 24 months, might hinder leaders from making meaningful impacts or effectively navigating complex challenges. Conversely, staying in a role for decades can sometimes lead to resistance to change and innovation, which can impede organizational growth. Bobby emphasizes the importance of finding a balanced approach and the discipline to follow what approach works for the organization, similar to how political terms have limits to bring in fresh perspectives. 


Challenges in Change Management, Talent Management, and Strategic Decision-Making

During Bobby’s research for his coaching practice, he found it concerning that 30% of internally promoted executives and 65% of externally hired ones fail within 18 to 24 months. These failures often happen in key areas like change management, talent management, and strategic decision-making. 

For change management, Bobby’s advice is straightforward: seek help. He believes that asking for assistance is a sign of strength, not weakness. Change management, in essence, is about transparency and engagement, keeping everyone informed and involved throughout the process. 

Moving on to strategic decision-making, Bobby emphasizes the value of a structured process. At Chevron, where he worked, they relied on decision analysis to ensure decisions were based on facts rather than intuition. He has even published an e-book outlining eight steps for strategic decision-making, highlighting the importance of being process-driven in such critical areas.

Regarding talent management, Bobby notes that studies consistently show that people don’t leave jobs solely for more money; they want recognition and to be treated with respect. He acknowledges the changing landscape where employees are more empowered and have a stronger voice in their career choices, advocating for a culture where people feel valued and appreciated.


Respect is Universal

Understanding a company’s tools and skills is one thing, but understanding intent is crucial. In leadership and feedback, intent matters most. Feedback should aim to improve, not criticize. Positive intent is key for professionalism and influence. Being clear, using examples, and staying positive ensure feedback is helpful and welcomed.

When it comes to leadership, respect is a universal principle that everyone values. However, different cultures have unique ways of delivering feedback. For instance, in some countries like China and the Middle East, there’s a top-down, hierarchical approach where you don’t bypass levels of authority. Understanding these cultural nuances is crucial, especially as a Westerner working in these regions.

During your initial days in a new organization or cultural setting, it’s essential to learn about local norms and customs. This period is critical for building influence, showing respect, and earning respect in return. In many cultures, public criticism, even if intended constructively, may not be well-received. Therefore, it’s important to navigate feedback carefully, ensuring it remains open, honest, and direct while being mindful of sensitivities.


Keeping Leadership Simple

There’s a beauty in simplicity that’s often overlooked. Just think about your daily routines—like driving or managing tasks at home. Bobby asked, “Why should work be any different?” While there can be complexity in tasks, simplicity usually wins, especially in communication. People naturally gravitate towards simplicity. The more complex something becomes, the quicker people lose interest. 

As attention spans continue to shrink, simplicity becomes increasingly crucial. This is where discipline steps in—it’s not just about occasional bursts of effort but maintaining consistent dedication and focus. 


Discipline is a Friend

He emphasizes that discipline starts with self-trust, leading to self-belief and commitment. Bobby sees discipline as an opportunity for growth, resilience, and character building, even in a culture of instant gratification. He encourages embracing discipline as a mindset shift toward achieving excellence and taking ownership of our successes. Some people find clever shortcuts, and that’s okay. But for most of us, progress takes time and consistent effort.

While being ultra-disciplined in everything might be rare, focusing on what truly matters in life allows you to tap into your self-trust, self-belief, commitment, and desire, leading to disciplined actions. It’s a valuable gift, freely available to everyone willing to cultivate it. Leadership, as Bobby points out, is simple yet challenging. Many shy away from the difficulties, preferring the easier path. However, true leaders possess a strong desire to improve, communicate effectively, and contribute positively, even in challenging situations.


“Striving for excellence is better than striving for perfection.” – Bobby Harrington


Discipline Starts With Self-Belief

In business, the lack of discipline and desire can lead to poor outcomes like talent turnover, bad decisions, and financial losses. This highlights the importance of discipline and the desire to achieve success and avoid failures in leadership roles.

To sum up things, confident leaders understand the power of seeking help, recognizing it as a strength rather than a weakness. They leverage mentorship, networking, continuous learning, and discipline to broaden their skills and foster mutual respect. These leaders embrace failure as a stepping stone to growth and self-improvement. Rather than being discouraged, they use setbacks as valuable learning experiences to refine their strategies and strengthen their resolve.

Confident leaders excel in keeping things simple, standing out amidst complexity by streamlining processes and communication for more focused efforts and superior results. 

For a deeper dive into discipline and leadership, tune in to the podcast episode here: From Battleground to Boardroom: Navigating Leadership, Discipline, and Resilience

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