Responsibilities of a Leader – Define Reality, Serve People, Say Thank You – Exploring Leadership

Posted on

“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.

I continue to be surprised by the leaders that wish to view the world through rose colored glasses and not face reality head on with their Teams. While it is likely that these individuals exist in all areas of the business, it is especially evident in a sales environment.

Whether it is the manager that cannot/will not define the reality of working in a team environment and the basic accountabilities that are expected (and as a result does not hold people accountable in the same way across the team – to all appearances playing favorites when they are merely avoiding potential conflict) or the sales leader that continues to believe that due to the brand that they represent customers will come running for his services – many leaders fail to define reality for their team.

Time after time I’ve stepped into organizations and shared the most basic information with sales teams only to be shocked that they were unaware of things such as the targets for specific products or services. In fact they had been a team in name only but in reality were hyper-focused on their own results and contributions. In effect a collection of individuals that only shared their reporting structure.

The second responsibility of the leader is to be a servant to his people. As leaders (especially in sales) we need to focus on what roadblocks can we remove for our Teams. How can we assist our people in advancing their agenda and removing obstacles from our people?

Sadly this rarely occurs either. Leaders don’t spend enough time meeting the needs of their Team and too much finding ways to deflect blame/making demands (Yes, I know that is a large generalization).

I can think of one instance where a friend of mine (who is an excellent, seasoned salesperson) was placed in a position where the leader was unable to define reality for his team or to be a servant and actually help the business move forward. In this case the leader refused to accept the failings of the product set and pricing policies his company was taking to market. Rather than fight internally (which he should have), he spent time refusing to listen to his team and not representing his Team to the senior management. This ‘teflon’ behavior rarely serves the Team well and in fact undermines a Leader’s credibility with his Team. As a result a downward spiral begins where salespeople become disengaged and disenfranchised and then end up leaving the organization as they search for a more supportive leader and organization.

The last piece – the thank You – is also something that few leaders do well. A well placed thank you and public acknowledgement goes much farther than anything else in recognizing and supporting the work that Team members perform.

To all the Leaders out there – remember the formula. Define reality, be a servant to your people, and thank them again and again. Do this and your team will support you and rise to great heights. You will rise up with them – without your Team you can’t deliver your mandate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *