A Leader’s First Responsibility Is To Define Reality
By Dr John C Maxwell
The first time I heard that it is the leader’s responsibility to define reality was from leadership expert and author Max DePree. His assertion made sense to me instantly, and I agreed with it. But that doesn’t mean I was naturally good at it.
Of all the lessons I’ve learned about leadership, this one has been the most difficult. I could be the poster child for positive thinking. I am wired to give hope and encourage others. I just can’t help myself. As result, my philosophy has been a little like that of humorist Garrison Keillor, who said, “Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye and deny it” Truthfully, my aversion to being realistic and my occasional reluctance to embrace the fact that it is a leader’s responsibility to define reality has cost me greatly. But at the age of fifty-four, I finally learned my lesson!
You can't define what you don't see
I have often taught that people change only when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough they are able to.In my case, pain prompted me to learn. In 2001, I came face to face with a painful reality: One of my companies was steadily losing money and its effort seemed to be going in too may directions. This problem did not appear suddenly. For five years there had been indicators that I should make changes, but I was willing to make them. I needed to change my leadership team, but I didn't want to do it. I loved my inner circle. And year after year, I was willing to absorb the small losses that the company experienced. But after five year, the losses began to add up and take their toll.
My brother, Larry, who excels in business and always has a firm grasp on reality, kept exhorting me to face the truth and make some tough decisions. As a leader, I know the first rule of winning is "Don't beat yourself." By not facing reality and making some uncomfortable changes, I was beating myself, and I was beginning to feel discouraged. So when Margaret and I left to visit London for two weeks, I resolved to wrestle with the issues and come to some kind of decision. To help me think things though and process my decisions, I read a book that had just been published: Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch. In it I read the following six rules for successful leadership: