Leadership cannot exist without expectations from followers. Managing and handling people’s expectations is one of the core responsibilities of a leader. People thrive on promises; the leader often has to make them for people to be inspired to follow. Promise too little, and the people believe they have little stake in following you. On the other hand, if your promises are too grand, there is the likelihood that the expectations of people will skyrocket and that in itself, can schedule the leader for crises, should those expectations not be met.The adjustments of the leader to his realities on the ground is then bound to create criticisms from the people as they begin to attack him for breaking his leadership contract with them. Click To Tweet
Nothing is as common as the political leader aspiring for office with glossy manifestos, only for them to get to the office and have to contend with unforeseen realities. They then have to begin to adjust their leadership aspirations to the realities presented on the ground. The adjustments of the leader to his realities on the ground is then bound to create criticisms from the people as they begin to attack him for breaking his leadership contract with them. How paradoxical!
Most of the time, the pressure and the criticism of the followers can force the inexperienced leader to make bad decisions. The way I see it, every leader oscillates between acting in the best interest of his people or organisation and actually pleasing them. Unfortunately, the decisions that are in the best interest of the people and organisation may not seem pleasing to the people. Not managing this tension properly has ended many a leader’s tenure prematurely.
Another paradox of leadership is that everyone in the leader’s world, from his executive team members to the least man in his constituency, actually seems to know how the Leader should do their job. They even illusively believe that they can do a better job. The reality, however, is that they don’t have your job nor your realities. This difference between the realities of followers and the realities of the leader is the crux of this leadership paradox.
Most followers implicitly assume that the reality of the leader is the same as theirs. And based upon those realities, they usually form certain expectations of the leader that are not grounded in his personal leadership realities. When the followers’’ expectations are not met, it leads to offense by the people in their leadership.
I have since learned to have minimal assumptions and expectations of all levels of leadership above me because I simply do not have the luxury of their realities. In spite of our assumptions of the leader, we just might do a poorer job, if we had to contend with their realities. A clear insight into the realities of leadership may help foster the patience and understanding it takes to follow them.
On the part of the leader, they must be adept at communicating enough of their realities to their various constituents to foster understanding and a heavy dose of realism, to counter their illusions. Notice I didn’t say the leader should communicate all of his realities, he should communicate enough of it, to foster understanding on the part of their constituents. Any leader that lacks this capacity to subtly and adeptly communicate enough of his realities to manage people’s expectations is dead on arrival.