People rise or fall to meet your level of expectations of them

Leading people is quite karmic — what you give is what you get in return. And believe me, even the most confident and self-assured among us capitulate if their leaders don’t have enough faith in them or their abilities. Imagine what that means for the rest — the ones who aren’t that confident nor have a great self-image, let alone self-assurance — they’re screwed!

Call it Leadership 101 or 201, it doesn’t matter. The reality is that most leaders have to come in terms with managing their own expectations of their peers and subordinates. Failing to do that is essentially failing to lead. Yes, I hear you — the majority of your team is incompetent. I get it. But that’s primarily you view of them. Do they really suck or just fail to meet your expectations or standards? Where did these standards come from? Is your team aware of this and the rationale behind it?

Tough questions, eh? Indeed. And that’s deliberate because as a leader your job isn’t to get your team to think highly of you and your standards. If that’s how you’ve been operating, I’m afraid you’ve got it all wrong my friend. One of the key duties of a leader is to get her team think highly of themselves first. Get them to do that and they will not only surpass your standards but set new ones.

Of course, this sounds too theoretical! You haven’t tried it after all! But the ones who have, the best managers and leaders from across the globe, had success with a simple strategy — they made their team members feel like rock stars at the workplace. And the overall productivity, efficiency, and performance went through the roof!

While these results are typical, the leadership behaviour certainly is not. An insight I gained from a study was that, “Rarely do external difficulties defeat people; usually a lack of self-esteem holds them back.” As a leader, I believe our biggest responsibility is to help these individuals, particularly the ones whom we directly influence, get comfortable and be themselves. Acknowledging their talents, abilities, and individuality is a great step towards showing your belief in them.

And if you do that, you’ll be surprised how far they’re willing to go to just live up to your expectations. As with most things in life, “you go first.”

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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