God as the Leader Who Defines Reality

By Mark D. Roberts

August 14, 2015

God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Genesis 1:5

One of Max De Pree’s most frequently quoted lines comes from the opening pages of Leadership Is an Art (p. 11): “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.”

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” If you’re not familiar with Max’s work, don’t worry. He’s not some New Age guru who thinks we can create our own reality by thinking happy thoughts. For Max, a faithful Christian, our ability as leaders to define reality is shaped and circumscribed by the ultimate definition of reality by God.

How does God define reality? In Genesis 1, beyond creating all things, which is a rather impressive and unique way to work up a definition, God defines reality by naming. God calls the light “Day” and that darkness “Night” (Gen 1:5). God names the Sky, the Earth, and the Seas (Gen 1:8-10), and so forth and so on.

Later on in Scripture, God defines reality in many other ways. God establishes moral reality through giving the law. God defines the ways we are to worship (and not worship) him. God defines standards for human behavior through directives, prohibitions, stories, and ultimately by becoming human in Jesus Christ. God’s definition of reality lives (or should live, at any rate) among God’s people, the church that lives for God’s glory and demonstrates his reality to the world.

In a subordinate sense, we define reality in our spheres of leadership through our decisions and values, through what we say, and especially through what we do. If we seek to be effective as leaders, therefore, we would do well to pay close attention to the God who created all things and to God’s reality. The more our reality lines up with his, the more the organizations and people entrusted to us will flourish.


What or who defines your reality? How do you know what really matters?

As you reflect upon God’s reality revealed in Scripture, are there ways your reality may be out of synch with God’s?

As a leader, what do you do to “define reality” among the people you have been called to lead?


Almighty God, today we acknowledge that you are the one who defines reality in a unique way by creating all things, ordering all things, and naming all things. You define what is and what is good.

Help me, Lord, to see as you see, to think as you think, to feel as you feel, to value as you value. May my version of reality be more fully congruent with yours in every part of life, especially in contexts where I am a leader. Amen.

P.S. While Mark is on vacation for two weeks in August, we are running “greatest hits” devotions from the past year. New devotions will return on August 26. This devotional was originally published on April 18, 2015.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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