We are all victims of our experience – be that positive or negative. For the 6% of our Nation that are Veterans, November 11th takes on a unique meaning for each of us. This past weekend, I spent Veterans Day with several friends discussing the realities of what it means to be a Veteran.

For many, reality is the world around us. It’s where we grew up, where we live, what we do for a living, etc. Much of it is based on the reality of our United States. For many Veterans, there is another reality. One shaded by their call to duty around the globe. Places like the Bastogne in Belgium, or the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, Hamburger Hill in Vietnam, the 73d Easting during the Gulf War, in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan all shade the way Veterans view their reality. Some positive, some negative. For all of them, the emergent leaders who helped them during those challenging times greatly influenced the reality they remember today.

Each tour of duty adds a shade to their view. Like a tint to glass, their views can become shaded by each experience. Without someone to help them focus their view, and someone to listen and help them understand their changing reality, some may have difficulty readjusting their view to the reality at home. I’ve had great leaders along the way demonstrate how to maintain focus despite the shaded realities of a challenging world.

Leaders play a critical role in maintaining focus on reality. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, ambiguity and difficulties cloud the view of many people in the workplace. It’s easy to lose focus as day-to-day challenges force organizations to adapt and keep pace. With each adjustment to the original plan, a new reality takes hold and one loses sight of the original organizational vision.

There are two ways leaders can handle uncertainty: one positive, the other negative. Those that lose focus on the vision will focus on faults, blame others, publicly criticize, and bring the organization down. Those that maintain focus on the vision know that setbacks are temporary. They know that despite what appears cloudy, the true reality is the team needs to pull together – maintain a laser focus – and push through to victory.

Great leaders provide positive reinforcement during tough times. They listen, they coach, and they invest in keeping their team focused. Great leaders know we are victims of our experience, they understand the shaded view, and they choose to focus on the positive while dealing with the negative.