Define Reality

In the book, Leadership Is An Art, Max DePree talks about the responsibilities of a leader. Max DePree has the following to say:

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. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.

I found Max’ characterization of a leader’s responsibilities very refreshing. Most definitions I had studied talk about having a vision, influencing people, and getting work done.

I thought about what Define Reality meant and whether it was applicable to Project Managers (PM) and Technical Leaders (TL) working on a software project. The concept made a lot of sense and I felt it was a great way of looking at a leader’s responsibility. I tried to brainstorm various ways in which PMs and TLs could define reality on a project and came up with the following list:

  • Clearly understand what they know and do not know
  • Ensure that stakeholders clearly understand what is happening on the project
  • Set clear expectations with team members  on what needs to be accomplished and when
  • They are congruent and do not feel afraid or embarrassed to express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions
  • Understand the constraints (time/schedule, money, scope, personnel, resources) facing the project
  • I also felt that “Define Reality” was a process. The PM or TL has to perform the following activities throughout the course of the project:
    1. Understand as accurately as they possibly can all the aspects that affect the success of the project –
    2. Ensure that they communicate this understanding to all stakeholders
    3. Refine their understanding of the project as they go along by being open to any pertinent information
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One Response to Define Reality

  1. Pingback: Hidden Assumptions in a Project Schedule | Radha Mukkai's Blog

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