A leader’s main responsibilities

Posted on July 13, 2015 in: Articles

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”- Max DePree

If that sounds like “soft-headed” thinking on the part of some head-in-the clouds theorist, think again.

When Max DePree wrote that he was chairman and CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., the furniture maker that was named one of Fortune magazine’s 10 “best managed” and “most innovative” companies, and chosen one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. 

It was also a good company to invest in. If you had bought $100 of stock in the company in 1975 it would have been worth $4,854.60 in 1986 — a compounded annual growth rate of 41 percent.

The point is, DePree was a conscientious businessman who looked after the interests of all of Herman Miller’s stakeholders — and did a super job of it.

Looking after the interests of all stakeholders is the job of every leader, no matter whether he or she leads a for-profit or not-for-profit enterprise, or even primarily a family.

Who are your stakeholders? What are their interests? How can you and your team, if you have one, look after them and their interests? 

If you’re the leader of the team, how are you defining reality in your corner of the universe? And how does that definition align with the definitions of your other stakeholders? 

Every leader has a vision. And every good leader has a clear and compelling vision that directly or indirectly takes into account the interests of all stakeholders. 

What is your vision regarding that portion of the universe over which you have been given stewardship? If you don’t have one, or it needs refocusing, it’s time to get busy.

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute

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