Defining Reality: The First Responsibility of a Leader

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality” ~ Max De Pree

There I was.  I had just walked into my new role as Senior Personnel Sergeant charged with leading a group of soldiers tasked with performing all the human resource management tasks for our unit as well as being excellent in the execution of common tasks for a combat soldier.  Each of the men came up and introduced themselves and I did my best to size them up based on their demeanor, voice tone, and presentation.  It became obvious to me who the leader was; a specialist with about three years on the job.  He was the one who briefed me, told me my job, and proceeded to direct all the others.  He was fun to watch; it was clear he had no clue as to what role this personnel office really played within the unit.  He was just completing tasks as they came in and sticking to a schedule of reports that had been directed by the commander.  He was a good manager; but he was not a leader; he had no vision.

The role of defining reality involves discovering and committing to the vision of the corporation, not just the tasks of a unit or team.  A leader does not read procedural manuals to learn processes per say; rather, a leader reads procedural and policy manuals to learn the vision and culture of the company.  A leader intuitively desires to know the big picture; how can I add value to the company as one of its servant leaders.  He or she is looking for where the company is, where the company is headed, and processes used in the past and in the present to reach that vision.  From this data, a leader helps his or her team discover purpose, identity, and value in their role within the company.  A leader defines the reality within which that team operates as a part of the entire organization.  Do you remember the song “Misfits” in the movie Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer?  In that song, the principal question that needed answering was, “Why am I such a misfit; why don’t I fit in?” Leaders define reality for the team in such a way that they understand how their role fits into the bigger picture of the company. Additionally, leaders use their influence to ensure the gifts of each person under their purview are maximized.  Leadership is influence beccause leaders cast vision; they define reality in such a way that people enjoy performing their roles in excellent fashion.

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