Nine disciplines of leadership and self-mastery

BY MICHAEL F. BROOM, Ph.D., Organization Development Psychologist

Welcome to the first of a series of articles about leadership. Leadership occurs throughout our lives, such as being an authorized leader at work where a team of people reports to you. Maybe you’re the head of a church or social club committee. Or you are the person whose lead others follow simply because that is what happens.

Perhaps you are that occasional leader who has a good idea that influences people to go along every now and then. To put it simply, you are leading anytime someone is following your wishes.

Unfortunately, many of us at work or otherwise find that getting others to follow us can be problematic even when we most want them to. We dedicate this series to helping you understand and master the key dynamics of leadership and followership.

The series will cover the nine disciplines of leadership and self-mastery, which this initial article will summarize. Coverage of some topics will need several articles, such as “Mastering self-mastery,” which will be a series of at least five articles all by itself. Another that will have multiple topics is “Being powerful without power struggles.” It is a most important topic.

Mastering self-mastery

We are fortunate that we can get through most of life pretty much on automatic. We don’t need to think about what to do. We just do it. Unfortunately, there are times when being on automatic causes more problems than it solves.

When a situation has become problematic or one we particularly want to go well, being intentional to see that our behavior fits the current situation rather than being on automatic is crucial. We’ll explore how to do just that and why it’s so difficult.

Creating agreements that get stuff done

Misunderstandings, all too often, get in the way of effective leadership and can lead to irreparable damaged projects and relationships. However, misunderstandings are completely avoidable. In this topic, you’ll learn how to develop explicit agreements that clarify expectations, avoid upsets, and establish accountability.

Making your followers a team

Teams are the fundamental unit of organizations and society. Accordingly, effective teams are a key indicator of effective leadership. If teams work, everything else works. Yet so many teams are dysfunctional.

When leaders do not understand the dynamics of teams, team norms can overwhelm the good intentions and undermine otherwise effective individuals. These articles will explore the key reasons teams don’t work and what to do about them.

You can’t lead alone: The importance of support systems

No one has achieved any significant success by themselves. Any successful person will tell you that they didn’t succeed without support. They had help. You can achieve more in a shorter amount of time with the right people supporting you. We will explore how to effectively develop support systems without which you cannot accomplish your goals.

Decision-making that works

Effective decision-making has two critical components: information that is sound and current and consensus to assure efficient execution. Unfortunately, we often assume that our information is sound and current when it isn’t.

And consensus has the reputation of being too time-consuming to be useful. In these articles, you will learn how to be sure your data is sound and current and how to generate the buy-in of consensus in a way that is does not take long at all.

Creating an appetite for feedback

People cringe when someone says, “May I give you some feedback?” Yet, feedback is essential to knowing if you are on track toward your goals or in need of correction. Feedback is also an essential part of growth and development. In these articles, you will learn how to receive feedback without upset and to offer feedback that people will hear as helpful.

Being powerful without power struggles

Unresolved conflicts and power struggles are at the core of interpersonal and team dysfunction. Achieving influence and persuasion without power struggles requires a shift away from such automatic, win-lose power dynamics.

We will offer you an understanding of how to win influence and accomplish the greatest results through collaborating, rather than struggling, with others.

Differences: The only source of learning we have

Differences are at the core of win-lose power struggles. We can conflict over who is wrong and who is right, who is loser and who is winner over almost any difference. However, differences are also the only source of learning we have. They are the source of new knowledge, new ideas, synergy, and creativity. These articles will explore the many ways you can learn and benefit from differences.

Empowerment: What’s that really mean?

Imagine the results you could achieve leading a team who have learned from you the power of self-mastery! Their impacts are in sync with their intentions. They substitute curiosity for judgment and collaborate rather than struggle for power.

In our final topic, you will learn how to support your followers to toward actualizing their self-mastery as you have actualized yours.

Some of us lead large organizations. Some of us only lead one or two people occasionally. Regardless, we could learn to tune up our leadership capabilities. This series will help you do just that.

We will publish it every other week. Our next topic on Mastering Self-Mastery will discuss how making conscious choices is essential when our automatic, habitual responses are likely to be off-target.

Michael F. Broom, Ph.D., has been an organization development psychologist for 45 years. He consults with organizations of all types, including Google and Genentech among others. He has taught at major universities, including Johns Hopkins and American. For more information, you can contact him at or

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top