[Strategy] Leading Through Obligation

If you are a manager in an organization of any size, with any mission or scope of responsibility, it is your obligation to lead.


Now, obligation is a loaded word, filled with the stresses of accountability, responsibility, and eating last in a world where everyone wants to eat first.

Obligation comes along with the word “honor,” which, as a verb, means to “fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).

There is a tacit agreement between leaders and followers: Leaders set a tone, provide a secure space for initiatives to be implemented and then codify action through words and deeds. Followers implement the initiatives as they are proposed, rally behind the leader in times of stress or conflict and promote the tone of the actions.

At least, in a perfect world.

Unfortunately, we live in a world of imperfection, mixed motives, lies and deception and selfish pursuits.

In this world, leadership is even more critical and, at the core, requires human leaders to sacrifice resources (material, emotional and even spiritual) in order to accomplish a greater good for their followers—even when they believe that the greater good is wrong.

  • This ability to sacrifice marks the difference between politicians and statesmen.
  • This ability to sacrifice marks the difference between role models and celebrities.
  • This ability to sacrifice marks the difference between leaders and followers.

A leader’s responsibility is not to chart a course for the followers and then blindly lead them there, in spite of everything.

A leader’s responsibility is to chart a course for their followers (after actively listening to their followers) and then convince, persuade, cajole and move the followers toward accomplishing those goals.

This process requires an understanding, and an acceptance of, the definitions of obligation, honor, responsibility, accountability, character and honor.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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