“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
-Max De Pree
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Leaders constantly make decisions each and everyday. Some are easy, some are hard. American businessman Max De Pree mentions that as a leader we have three responsible decisions we should be making everyday: defining our reality first, saying thank you last and being a servant leader in between. All are important decisions but it is being that servant leader is what is of utmost importance. The visual for me that comes to mind with his description is that of a hearty sandwich: the first two things he mentioned are the bread and the servant leader part in the middle is the meat of that sandwich which helps bring it all together.
Leaders need to define the reality that they currently live in for themselves and for others. No sugar coating allowed. It is their moral obligation for them to view the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to presenting or even fabricating what is actually going on. Good or bad, for better or worse we as leaders owe it to tell the truth. If we try to ignore what is currently happening and play the ignorance card, the truth will eventually rise to the surface. So why lie? The faster you define and assess the situation for what it truly is, the faster you can plan and problem solve if needed in order to move any organization forward.
Saying the words “thank you” last is, to me, a lost art. How often do we say it to one another? How often do we take one another for granted and instead just expect certain things to be done? No matter what position you hold, you are a leader.We should always demonstrate an attitude of gratitude each and every day. We used to say in education that no child is left behind. Now we should be forever be showing one another our sincere appreciation for all that we do for one another. Just those two words makes anyone feel good. So why wouldn’t we want the opportunity to make someone else’s day?
The third decision and is sandwiched in between the other two mentioned is deciding to be that servant leader. Ken Blanchard said we should serve first, lead second. Servant leadership is what is needed now more than ever. Through the writing of Robert K. Greenleaf, Larry C. Spears says there are ten characteristics that servant leaders possess:
- Healing (of Relationships)
- Building community
The world can become a better place if we repurpose our personal ambitions that focus on our needs only and instead use them to serve others.
What does this quote mean to you and how can you apply today’s message towards developing your responsible decision making skills?