Leadership is about consistency and managing expectations!

June 2, 2010

As I have been undergoing some leadership training and learning to become a person of influence, I have become very interested in the idea of how leadership by respect is attained. As you may already know, there are different reasons why people follow “leaders”. Some follow because they are forced to, others follow because they are subordinate to the leader in question and thereby follow due to the position that person holds. However there is a group of people that follow because they respect the person they are following and that isn’t because of position or pressure but they desire to be led by this person. It is this form of influence that has caught my eye and I believe that it fundamentally collapses down to two variables – expectations and consistency.

Expectations are a two way street – the leader has expectations of the person they are leading – these may range from expecting that person to complete tasks or to meet certain standards. The follower also has expectations of the leader – these range from the leader knowing what the follower is capable of and being reasonable with what is required of them. For both parties consistency is the link between expectations and performance. If the leader is consistent in his expectation then the follower feels safe and performs to the best of his ability – even if initially he may not think that he is capable of meeting the expectations initially. If however, the leader is inconsistent in his requirements of the subordinate, then the follower does not know what to expect and does not feel safe and does not perform at the level of excellence because they now operate in fear that the rules of the game could suddenly change without notice.

Failure to correctly manage the two attributes of consistency and expectations determines whether you end up in the virtuous or the vicious cycle as demonstrated in the diagram below:

In a discussion I was having with a colleague we identified that when a leader is unpredicatable – that is you don’t know what to expect from them whether it is behaviour or tasks related, it causes performance to fall as you are only willing to give the bare minimum to someone who may one day appreciate it and then not appreciate it the next day. One colleague had a problem with one of her managers – “you never know whether you’ll meet her in a good mood or in a terrible mood.” As a result she is reluctant to completely commit to her work as she has fear that her boss could love it today when she’s in a good mood, but hate it tomorrow when she’s had a bad day. “I just never know what to expect” she says.

In order to become a person of influence, in addition to the many other attributes that are key to leadership I believe one must understand expectations of those you are leading and engage them and ensure that there are no grey areas with regards to what they are required to do. In addition to that, leaders must be consistent. Consistency allows those that follow to feel safe and to be able to apply themselves fully to their work without fear that the rules will change suddenly.

“Your attitude is an expression of your values, beliefs and expectations”


One Response to “Leadership is about consistency and managing expectations!”

  1. Ayme Fern Says:

    I am writing a paper on this topic for a leadership class and was wondering if you could refer me to any sources I could use.

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