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Great ideas: The 15 Disciplines by Stephen Scott

Lessons from Stephen Scott's book The Fifteen Disciplines



When Stephen Scott was coming to the end of his career in the RAAF (a senior executive in a fighter squadron), he mapped out how he would leave a worthy legacy.

He focused on three results he would need to achieve:
 
  1. The productivity and quality of work achieved while he was responsible for leading others;
  2. The capacity of that group to work well without him; and,
  3. The improvement he made to the quality of life of those he led.  

This culminated in The 15 Disciplines, a checklist (now in book form) of necessary actions he would need to achieve his leadership legacy. Here's a short summary of the process, and each of the 15 disciplines: 
 
The process of leadership growth starts with discipline.
  • Your thoughts become your actions.
  • Your actions become your habits.
  • Your habits become your character.
  • Your character determines whether or not others make you their leader.

The 15 Disciplines checklist for Productive Leadership:
  1. Be your best self. You recognise the effect your fear and ego needs have on your decisions.  
  2. Take the lead. You act, guided by a sense of purpose.
  3. Be Ethical. You have integrity.
  4. Keep the end in mind. You influence people to ask how every action supports an objective.
  5. Be strategic. You keep well informed on all factors, internal and external.
  6. Plan to succeed. You know that failing to plan is failing to fail.
  7. Maintain control. You delegate, but don’t relinquish responsibility.
  8. Be Adaptable. You quickly orient yourself to new information.
  9. Be Just and Fair. You create equal opportunity for everyone, yet treat as individuals.
  10. Look for Results, Not Faults. You intentionally focus on the good in people.
  11. Inform Relentlessly. You include and empower people.
  12. Work Hard, Play Hard. You manage your own fatigue to be in a condition to lead.
  13. Generate Unity. You find ways to unite people without diminishing the value of diversity.
  14. Uphold Standards. You model productive habits, and expect others to.
  15. Foster Learning. You seek learning from every situation.

The Great Eight (answers to eight getting-to-know you questions we ask every author who features on book club): 
 
  • What's a book you'd recommend?   The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. I met John at The Growth Faculty event. It’s something I’ve drawn upon, it’s incredibly practical and a wonderful grounding resource for me.
  •  If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be, and what is the book title?  I’m in the process of co-authoring a book with Dr Philip Moulds, Headmaster of The Rockhampton Grammar School. We’ve got someone helping us with that. It’s about their implementation of The 15 Disciplines, it’s a research project. No book title yet, we’re struggling with that.    
  • What's a great bit of advice you could share?   Reflect. Constantly reflect on the impact you have on those around you. Ask how much am I allowing my fears and ego to control my thinking?
  • What's been your lowest moment, and how did you recover?  I can’t share the issue, but I was a cause of a major, major issue in the airforce as an officer. One of the challenges for me personally was how well would people accept me after that. The feeling of uncertainty, the humiliation, the possibility of them rejecting me as their leader, I guess the lack of confidence that you then have, because everybody knew I was at fault because I had caused this incident. It wasn’t a life critical incident but it impacted our ability as a squadron for a couple of days. Being able to front up to those people, have the courage to talk to them, and to openly accept the responsibility for it and to apologise to them, was such an empowering moment for me as a leader. I can’t remember being more scared of anything in my life than to front up to those people who relied on me daily to make good decisions.  
  • How do you relax? Jetskiing. I sit on my jet ski and enjoy the sea life around me.
  • What’s a fun fact that’s not widely known about you? I do try to murder a guitar every now and then, and cause pain to those around me.     
  • What's the secret of success? Disciplined thinking, which I learned many years ago from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  
  • What's a prediction for 2025? It’s a wishful prediction, I’d like to think there was more kindness in the world, more about creating unity than dividing and conquering.



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