The opening sentence in Max DePree’s book, “Leadership Is an Art” is simple yet profound: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

The first time I ever read that statement, it struck me as arrogant and a bit impossible.  Who was I to define reality?  Over time, as I meditated on that statement, the meaning began to sink into my head.  I realized what a poor leader I would be if I did not define reality, both for me and for my followers.

Anytime we find ourselves in a leadership role, others look to us for the definition of reality.  The magnitude of that role can be overwhelming.  Nevertheless, define reality we must.  That is our mission, indeed, our calling.

Think it through, consider carefully, and define accurately.  Your organization’s success depends upon it.

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In the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek (1/23/12 to 1/29/12) we find the journal’s annual ranking of top-performing companies.  Number 1 was Mastercard.  Apple was 6, Cerner was 13, Google was 23, Amazon.com was 48, and DirecTV was 49.

Coca-Cola came in at 41.  Quoted in a sidebar was Coca-Cola’s CEO Muhtar Kent.  To the question, “How can you boost performance during the next decade?” Kent responded, in part:

“More innovation. . . . remaining constructively discontent, knowing that we can always do better.  Ensuring–starting with me–that there is never any room to be arrogant or to rest on your recent successes.”

I love it!  Kent’s statement serves as an admonition to us all.  It is true in life and it is true in business that pride comes before a fall.  The companies and the people who will excel in 2012 and beyond will be the companies and the people who never rest on past accomplishments.  Daily, moment by moment, our passion must be to identify new opportunities wherever and however they may come.

While we may revel in past accomplishments, we must never camp there.  New accomplishments await our discovery.  Let’s go get ‘em!

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Going green has been one of the mantras of the day in the business world.  Businesspeople increasingly feel compelled to be good corporate citizens.  Therefore, among the multiple factors assessed in every decision is “how will this affect the environment?”

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe we must be good stewards over the resources with which we have been entrusted. Nevertheless, what strikes me as funny is when going green isn’t going green.

Case in point: Most people try to maintain a paperless office as much as possible in the interest of not killing more trees.  On the surface, one can understand the strategy.  Unfortunately, what many people do not realize is the more paper is used, the higher the demand for paper, the more trees are planted to replenish and further support the growing demand.  I had a paper-trade expert share this with me at a business meeting recently.  She explained higher paper use directly leads to more trees, and less paper use directly leads to fewer trees.

Many additional examples exist.  The bottom line is in each case not looking at the whole picture can put you in the predicament of thinking you are going green when you’re not.

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I chuckled at Sarah Goodyear’s article (link below) in which she bemoans our fate when we become overly dependent on our GPS devices and our technology.  Goodyear affirms although technology is a great tool, perhaps when we allow ourselves to become overly dependent on it, we usurp our cognitive and existential prowess.

I love technology.  I love what it can do for me.  I love the increasing number of benefits and conveniences it provides.  Simultaneously, I continually remind myself how dependent I am on technology.

This awareness drives me to three continual objectives:

1). To remain technologically astute so I can continue to benefit.

2). To build redundant backup systems to protect my data and my processes.

3). Never to fear doing something “the old-fashioned way” (such as pen and paper), because, after all . . . . they don’t disappear when the power dies.



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I have been amazed to observe the generational differences with respect to social media.  I have seen both good and bad.


On the good side, you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Increasing numbers of baby boomers and beyond are gravitating toward the online universe.  Savvy business professionals understand they must keep up with the times and the technology if they want to remain relevant.  Generation Y folks, having grown up in it, navigate seamlessly between their online world and the supposed real world.  (Which world is more real? one might ask—shades of The Matrix?)

On the bad side, there are baby boomers who choose to limit their potential and their career by virtue of ignoring the online world.  Pretending it does not exist does not make it so.  Some generation Y folks remain oblivious to the permanency of their online tags and tirades, thereby inflicting lifelong negative marks on their virtual resumes and reputations.  This speaks to the recklessness of youth and the obligation of the more experienced to set the example and lead the way.

For good or for bad, we can never go back.  But we can take what is ours today and make it better by our actions and by our example.

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