Thursday, March 12, 2015

The expectation trap for leaders

Those who lead inherit expectations from their team or organization. Some of those expectations are critical: Building healthy teams; serving one's staff; removing barriers; clarifying what is important and so on. As I wrote recently all supervisors and leaders have an unwritten contract with those they lead around these key issues.

Then there are what I call false or unrealistic expectations that simply come from history (what the previous leader did), personal preferences (this is what my leader should do) or my personal version of what a leader is and does. This is one of the primary issues pastors face because there are as many expectations of what a pastor should be and do as their are members of the congregation. It is these unrealistic or false expectations that cause issues for leaders unless they are personally clear as to what is important to them.

The expectations of others are a trap because no leader can ever fulfill all the expectations that others have, nor should they. There are simply too many. Leaders must be clear about what is important to them in leading well rather than trying to fulfill the expectations of others. Furthermore those expectations (other than the critical obligations every leader has) are often distractions to good leadership rather than contributors to the mission. 

If we are driven to please others by meeting their expectations we are more concerned that people like us than that we lead well and people respect us. There is a big difference between the two. The best leaders have great conviction as to what their priorities are and it does not include meeting all the expectations of others. 

There is another issue at play. The expectations of others usually come from how they would live or lead. But they are not us. "But our last pastor...." is not an uncommon phrase. Bless them for how they did what they did but we are not them. It is why in our organization while there are some non negotiable expectations of leaders, how they do what they do is highly flexible. Leaders are individuals with their unique gifting, personalities and even quirks (yes we all have them). This is why I write in Deep Influence that we must lead from who God made us to be. 

When we get caught in trying to meet the unrealistic or false expectations of others we inevitably get out of our best lane and it hurts our leadership. Ironically in trying to meet the expectations of others we often end up hurting our staff because we are no longer leading out of who we are or focused on the clarity that we ought to have.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

1 comment:

James Folk said...

Great points Tim. Also very subtle are the hidden expectations we may have of ourselves which can be unbiblical or unhealthy. A desire for perfection or the need to always be perceived as doing the right thing. When others voice their expectations of us, we can fall into the trap of internalizing if we are not careful.