Responsibility is not only the ability to respond to what comes towards us, it is also the capacity to stand behind our actions and to be responsible for all that we do, or do not do. This means that we do not allow ourselves to be in denial, or to be self-indulgent. Our ability to respond impeccably to the circumstances at hand, and with integrity to the events we create brings us into the arena of effective leadership.

This aspect of responsibility is discipline. Discipline is the process of facing life directly and acting without haste. The word discipline actually means “being a disciple unto oneself.” When we are disciples unto ourselves, we honor our own rhythm, ask for help that is needed, and consistently attend to the actions needed, in a step-by-step way. We are most likely to be thrown off course when we have too much to do, or too little to do. These times should act as reminders to engage discipline, to move not rashly, but step-by-step.

Discipline and responsibility are the leadership tools for honoring structure and function. The key is getting the balance right, too much structure or form leads to rigidity and calcification, and too much function or random creativity leads to chaos.

Thomas Cleary’s Zen Lessons: the Art of Leadership reminds us that if we do not adhere to the “three don’ts of leadership” we will not only be irresponsible, but we will dishonor the processes of discipline found in all structures and functions:

Cleary explains that in leadership, there are three don’ts:

  • When there is much to do, don’t be afraid;
  • When there is nothing to do, don’t be hasty;
  • And don’t talk about opinions of right or wrong when action can be taken.

A leader who succeeds in these things won’t be confused or deluded by external objects and circumstances.

When we apply the guidelines of the “three don’ts” in our lives, we honor the inherent aspects of structure and function by instilling discipline and responsibility into all that we do or steward in our lives.

Your challenge is to assess where you are currently at in your role and  how you could use these principles to do things differently.

As this YouTube video show us, often we only need to change our strategy slightly to obtain a much better outcome.

Thanks for reading, Ken Wright

Contact me at if you would like to know how you can develop your own personal responsibility skills – I can help you be a better leader!