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  1. Ted Dannemiller
    August 24, 2018 @ 6:58 am

    I now work in the commercial nuclear industry where we only recently identified that leadership skill was a gap in our suite. We now have a theorem of leadership principles entitled Essential Outcomes. Discipline is rigor for us in the commercial industry. It is adherence to the standards and management model we’ve created. Lethality oddly is an enabler in combat, and not an end state. Lethality allows us to create détente with potential adversaries, and when needed in dynamic or kinetic events provides us that OODA loop ‘act’ component that facilitates action without conscious thought. In the nuclear industry, lethality has no direct corollary in our Essential Outcomes. I opine that the notion of being extraordinarily proficient at one’s fundamental task is the point here. Proficiency is the ability to execute a skill at extraordinarily high levels (being lethal) in varying environments with internal and external drivers influencing individuals and teams. I like the idea of applying the lethal mindset to leadership in a non-combat motif.



  2. Nick Thompson
    August 27, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

    I like the ideas presented in this article. However, I find the first bullet-point a concern. While I agree that we all should “Be knowledgeable of regulations and policies; gather the facts and build context. This allows you to handle situations when you confront others with confidence and clarity.” The statement maintains a pragmatic problem: most large institutions have too many general regulations too keep track of and enforce, and which often conflict with the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution. Petty policies lacking in empirical value are often held over from one generation of leaders to the next solely out of tradition rather than positive institutional value based in fact. In this Harvard Business Review article by Ranjay Gulati (, the author identifies the Army’s Gordian Knot through the business world: “Executives have trouble resolving the tension between employee empowerment and operational discipline.” When leaders and subordinates are overwhelmed with pedantic rules and rules lacking the intended impact on moral or cohesion the realistic answer is to either disregarded or derided the anachronistic relics. Thus, reliance on stifling and irrelevant traditions are likely to create more leadership problems when seeking to increase discipline through accountability and standard enforcement is likely to have an effect opposite to the intent.


    • jbowen100
      August 28, 2018 @ 5:32 am

      Nick, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree it is hard to get after #1 with such an oversaturation of rules and regulations. However, I don’t think the idea is to counter that by ignoring that aspect of leader accountability. I work to focus on the rules that matter to my organization to make us more effective, lethal, and professional. And I routinely spend a little time re-engaging regulations to remain current and educated. It’s a challenge, I agree, but one that we need to keep tackling.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and resources.


    • TL
      October 26, 2020 @ 3:54 pm

      I think the answer here is the leader has to choose what standards are most important and prioritize enforcement of those standards in particular. There is this often quoted belief in the service that if you are disciplined in the small things you will also be disciplined in the large things. I don’t believe that is necessarily true. Studies indicate that self-control is a limited resource (Muraven et al, 1998), so it seems logical to prioritize that resource on the most important things first.


      • jbowen100
        October 26, 2020 @ 4:23 pm

        TL, I do agree there has to be emphasis and clarity on what is important and why. Everything can’t be. I appreciate your perspective! –Josh

  3. Christine Neumann
    September 3, 2018 @ 2:44 am

    Discipline is good! The first task in the morning, making up my bed. But I do Not like that everyone in this photo looks alike.


  4. Dave
    December 3, 2018 @ 3:50 am

    If as a boss you never check to see that tasks are being accomplished to standard, what you are doing is communicating. You are sending the message that that particular task is not actually important. And it’s non-verbal communication, which is always stronger than verbal.

    For example, when I was a commander I made a point to hit the motor pool at some (random) time on PMCS day. I’d select a few (random) vehicles to spot check…pull a dipstick, etc. It’s not that the subordinate leaders need me to check that stuff, indeed the commander should not have to personally check PMCS to make sure it’s done right. But it sends the message that the boss isn’t just flapping his gums about this stuff…he really thinks its important. Oh, and it’s a good example for subordinate leaders as well.

    And checking doesn’t need to have a negative connotation. It’s an opportunity to catch someone doing it right, which is way more powerful than catching someone screwing up.


  5. Celebrating Two Years of Leader Development! – 3×5 Leadership
    December 12, 2018 @ 9:31 am

    […] Discipline Through Accountability and Enforcing Standards […]


  6. Leadership and the Need for Perpetual Optimism – 3×5 Leadership
    August 1, 2019 @ 7:11 am

    […] Use positivity in enforcing standards and holding others accountable. Leaders uphold high standards and hold people accountable to them. These accountability conversations are often negative and intense, leaving bad tastes in the mouths of everyone involved after. I don’t believe holding others accountable has to be this terrible experience, though. How can leaders hold others to high standards while inspiring them toward higher commitment to those standards in a mutually positive way? I think there are 12 simple ways leaders to enforce high standards and discipline with their people in inspiring and c…. […]


  7. Are Our Loyalties Misaligned? We Must Define Our Levels of Loyalty. – 3×5 Leadership
    October 27, 2019 @ 10:39 am

    […] like in our teams and organizations? I think it starts with, and is most predominantly seen in, maintaining high standards and discipline. Professions are defined by their high personal and collective responsibility and mutual […]


  8. John
    March 9, 2020 @ 12:16 pm

    In terms of accountability, I think holding people financially responsible for equipment in their possession would work wonders. For some reason, we’ve strayed from that and accountability is a big issue now.


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