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Importance of Discipline in the Leadership Process

“Is discipline as important as reward to the leader in influencing followers? If so, what is the best method of implementing?”

Discipline is as critical to good leadership. In order to motivate and manipulate followers to do things they are not inclined to do on their own, a leader will have to prove and show their authority. This statement is conditional in regards to the following factors:

1 – Consistent treatment of all followers

2 – The manner the discipline is administered is respectful

3 – There is a clear understanding by the followers and they perceive the disciplinary action(s) is (are) necessary

“Workplace discipline means regulating the employees, making them abide by the rules and policies of the company and follow guidelines.” (Williams and Kings, 2009)

In order to administer fair discipline a leader must gather as much information, as time allows, as they can. Once they have gathered the information the must make a detailed analysis of where the wrongs have been made and to whom the blame falls. The leader must look at the situation from the angle of the direct problem and employee action as well as from the perspective of what could lead an employee to think/act in this manner.

Because disciplining subordinates is an unpopular leader responsibility, especially with charismatic leaders, far too many do not take this time and therefore administer discipline poorly.

In order to be successful the leader must be perceived to be “fair”. Gene Levine believes “the fairest work policies are the ones that allow employees to discipline themselves when they have demonstrated undesirable behavior – which extends even to the point of terminating themselves. I also hasten to add that there are not and cannot be “fair” policies on anything, to everyone, all the time. No matter how good the policy, someone, some day, will claim that it is “unfair.” (Levine, G, 1998)

One of the biggest factors affecting hostility in the workplace is inequity and selective discipline. Employees frequently site favoritism and unfairness as their reasons for discomfort and intimidation at work. (Vokoun, n.d.) This is due to leaders improperly yielding their authority. This is a problem when leaders use their authority for self enabling or enhancing reasons or any other reason that to improve the out put of the team.

Mastering the administration of discipline will allow a leader to reach a deeper level of trust and kinship with the followers. The leaders’ example is critical in developing and solidifying this. When a leader disciplines themselves for the good of the team, it is easier for followers to accept the disciplinary measures.

There is no best method for discipline. We have learned that situations and followers have a large impact on the leadership process. They, as well, will dictate how a leader should discipline a follower.

The team and follower might be best served by the leader disciplining the individual in a private setting such as a CEO might discipline a senior executive on their team. Dependent upon the situation, it might be better to admonish the individual in front of the entire team as a football coach might yell at a star lineman for making a mistake to get the entire line to focus on its importance.

After factoring in the individuals personality, the team make up and current stage of building, the leader should reach into their toolbox and apply the necessary effort and action to resolve the matter quickly.


Levine, Gene, 1998. “Firm-but-fair approach key in workplace discipline” accessed at:
On 14 November 2009 at 7:25pm GMT+3

Williams and Kings, 2009. “Maintaining Office Discipline at Your Workplace.” Business Article accessed at: on 14 November 2009 at 4:45pm GMT+3

Vokoun, Mellissa, n.d. “Avoiding a Hostile Workplace – Fairness in Employee Discipline”. Ezine Articles, Accessed at: on 14 November 2009 at 5:30pm GMT+3