[September 9, 2018] Leadership always means that the best leaders will set expectations and do so clearly and convincingly. They also set high standards in what they expect of others and manage those expectations carefully; for this is the only way to achieve long-term success.
Leaders also hold others and themselves to those standards. By enforcing them they are setting the example of what right looks right and what works best. Here in my leadership blog, I’ve written about setting expectations and their importance before (see links here, here, and here). Setting expectations cannot be overlooked no matter where you are in life.
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.” – Ralph Marston, author of The Daily Monitor
Unfortunately, having low expectations are surprisingly commonplace for leaders. We see it in unforeseen ways. All leaders have been guilty of low expectations. For example, I once had a really bad soldier (poor attitude, dismal work performance, and nasty disposition) who drove me crazy. I tried everything I could to motivate her into being a better soldier. Nothing seemed to work.
So, I did what every other leader would do; I stopped trying. I no longer had any standards for her and therein lays the problem. Of course, her performance never got better. Because it was noticed that I had stopped trying to help her, no one was willing to help her. I had demonstrated, by example, that it was okay to no longer try. She eventually left the U.S. Army.
Years later by pure accident, I ran into her at a fast food restaurant (I was in a hurry). She was behind the counter at a Burger King cash register taking orders. Her life had gone to pieces and she was working wherever she could get a job. To me, this was a double failure on my part. It was just too easy to allow her to leave the Army without picking up the value system of honesty, hard work, and especially of loyalty. I’d not been loyal to her.
I learned from this that no matter what, you must maintain a high-level set of expectations and enforce them. No one should be exempt. No excuses. Leaders should be careful to avoid the trap that I fell into.