Courage, Humility, and Discipline – three must-haves of a great leader!

If there is anything constant in the world it is change and this rate of change continues to escalate at an exponential rate. The fact is that pace of change that we are witnessing today is the slowest that we will ever witness in our life!

In this VUCA world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity is the norm rather than an exception, leaders needs sound strategies to be able to confront reality and steer themselves and their organisations to success. The pre-requisite, for being a good leader, is to have the qualities of courage, humility and discipline as these are the qualities which distinguish exceptional leaders from mediocre ones. These are the qualities that you need not only to lead but also to remain relevant in the throes of change as leadership is not something static but is dynamic and needs to evolve with changing times.

As I progress with my coaching assignments, I have begun to realise the importance of learnings from my session with Dr Marshall Goldsmith (who is ranked among the world’s foremost leadership thinkers and executive coaches) about the virtues of Courage, Humility and Discipline. Dr Marshall Goldsmith not only believes that these three are the must-have characteristics for great leaders but also mentions that among the leaders he coaches, Courage, humility and discipline are the three qualities that differentiate those who have improved the most!


No one is complete and competent in all respects, everyone has chinks in their armour. The one who realises this, is the one who will dare to do something about it. To realise, one needs courage to get feedback and to honestly look at themselves in the mirror. To face your inner most fears, to face the change, discover blind spots, ask for and seek feedback and to act on the same, even if it may not be to one’s liking, needs immense courage. Courage is about confronting your weakness(es) and devising strategies do work on the identified weaknesses. Courage is about getting out of your comfort zone and doing things that feel uncomfortable (e.g. asking for feed-forward suggestions from others, or raising difficult conversations). Great leaders have immense courage.


If you are wanting to get better, then you have to start by accepting that you are not perfect. Humility is acknowledging the work that needs to be done to change and grow, not to let ego come in the way of this process of change, and therefore growth and to accept one’s areas of improvements. Humility involves letting go of your ego and focusing on how to change your own behaviour to make your team and workplace more effective. Besides, it needs a lot of humility to take a Coach and more importantly to believe that someone who may not necessarily be better than you at what you do but can still help in achieving the desired outcome of the coaching engagement. The job of Coach is to observe and make you realise all that needs to change and then hand-hold you in the process of change, not necessarily being better than you at what you do. Any learning journey is a humbling experience as the realization dawns that there is no much that you didn’t know or didn’t realise or how you could have done things differently to be even more effective. It is also a highly rejuvenating experience once the positive behaviours start building, but one needs the humility to make the start.


Discipline is the third pillar for adopting any change or learning anything new. It is the ability to commit your time and energy to the outcome being pursued, in a quantum commensurate with what you are expecting to achieve. To be able to devote yourself to a learning journey, which when it comes to behaviors is mostly preceded by a phase on unlearning, needs a lot of commitment and discipline. You need to get out of your comfort zone again and again to re-learn behaviours, before you get from a stage of unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. Discipline relates to consistently implementing effective behaviours until they get ingrained in your neural paths and become a habit. To be a great leader, you have to have the discipline to follow up and do the hard work to keep getting better.

Self-reflect and see if you have the courage, humility and discipline to be a great leader! If you see a scope for improvement then before working on any other behaviour or outcome, commit to work on these three traits which is really the foundation, with a Coach you trust!

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