Good Leaders Set Expectations

By | September 9, 2018

[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.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Good Leaders Set Expectations

  1. Scotty Bush

    Thanks. I too agree that we have another great article on basic leadership.

  2. Ronny Fisher

    Another great article to read in the morning on my iPad and watch the news of the day. Great work with your website, General Satterfield. Thanks a million.

  3. Nick Lighthouse

    I had a similar incident happen to me at work many years ago. There was a co-worker with a bad attitude. Could do the job technically but seemed to always have a chip on his shoulder. He just would not change. We really expected much from him and he soon left. Good riddance is what most people were thinking at the time. That was a mistake on all our parts.

  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I especially liked your comments on having low expectations.

    1. Mike Baker

      A leader who has low expectations of others is a problem leader.

  5. Greg Heyman

    Hey, Gen. Satterfield, thank you for the great article on one of my favorite leader topics.

  6. Dale Paul Fox

    You hit upon one of my pet peeve subjects. I’m always having to mentor young leaders on this very issue. Why they struggle with the concept is beyond me. Maybe it’s their upbringing where so little was expected of them. They take that and transfer it to others now as an adult. Regardless of the reason, I’m always having difficulty sorting through the mess they leave when they fail at it.

  7. Albert Ayer

    Great article Gen. Satterfield. Hey thanks and have a wonderful Sunday.

  8. Jerome Smith

    The first step in being a leader is to know you have to set expectations and the second is to do so. Practice, practice, practice. What else can be said except that it must be done and only by doing so with respect to others can it be achieved.

  9. Army Captain

    Setting expectations is something we all could do a better job at. It’s all about good communication skills. I’ve personally seen many leaders who do a really good and conversely really bad job at this particular skill.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Yes, I agree with these articles on a regular basis and enjoy reading them first thing in the morning.

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