Raising the level of your leadership

The First Responsibility Of A Leader

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”
Max DePree
Leadership Is An Art

I am often asked, “What is the number one leadership failure you have seen in organizations of all kinds?” The answer is easy. It is defining reality, which according to Max DePree (retired CEO of Herman Miller) is the first responsibility of a leader.

Before vision and before strategy, organizations need to know the reality of where they are today. When Louis Gerstner took the helm of a faltering IBM in 1993, he shunned any talk of vision, strategy, etc., until he had taken time to fully and accurately understand the current situation.

“…the last thing IBM needs right now is a vision.”
Louis Gerstner
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

Defining reality is not easy and few organizations can do it without help. Why? Because it is so hard to get the unfiltered truth on the table—the truth is often not easy to swallow. Jim Collins says,

“Leadership is equally about creating a climate
where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted.”
Jim Collins
Good To Great

Brutal facts? No wonder it’s not easy.

Defining reality has the best chance of being honest and accurate if facilitated by someone who has:
     No personal agenda
     No stake in the outcome
     No reputation to defend
     No preferences
     No preset positions about your organization or markets
     No existing paradigms

If you are considering resetting your vision or strategy, or if you want to make sure you are on the right track now, make sure you really understand your starting point—where you are today.

After all, if you don’t know where you are starting from, you don’t have much chance of getting where you want to go.


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  • On Leading Well…

    "The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."

    Kouzes & Posner


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