Effective Leaders Must Answer: Where Are We Going and Why?

Do we expect too much from our leaders? Effective leaders must be sensitive to the expectations of the people he or she leads. Followers have two types of expectations:

  1. Explicit: Responsibilities to be fulfilled as part of the leadership role (fiscal responsibility, strategy and direction, accountability and execution)
  2. Implicit: All of the unspoken expectations like competence, fair treatment, commitment, engagement, listening, inspiration, direction and meaning-making

Implicit expectations can be minefields because they’re based on assumptions, may be unrealistic, are often misunderstood and vary greatly among stakeholders. We nevertheless judge leaders’ effectiveness on both explicit and implicit expectations.

Smart leaders know they’re always being judged. Success or failure depends on whether or not leaders clarify these role expectations and keep their promises. Hidden expectations will never be discovered unless a leader asks about them.

Most of us assume we’re on the same page as others, but every conversation offers an opportunity to elicit information about expectations. You accelerate your leadership effectiveness by asking about, learning and managing expectations.

4 Promises of Leaders

Business success is not a true measurement of leadership effectiveness. A business may take off, but leaders can still fall short unless they are skilled at influencing and inspiring people for the long term.

Although followers often expect too much of their leaders, they must at the very least fulfill four promises and excel in four key competencies:

  1. Strategy
  2. Engagement
  3. Execution
  4. Leadership development

The First Promise: Set the Right Direction

The first leadership promise focuses on strategy, mission and values, and it’s as much about people as it is about profits. An effective leader answers the question, “Where are we going?”

Stakeholders hold leaders to this vital promise because it establishes the “why” they’re in business, as well as “what” the business will and won’t do. This foundation sets direction and meaning, creating a culture in which people can thrive.

Direction and meaning set the stage for establishing a business identity and brand. Effective leaders can articulate their organizations’ unique contributions to the world. They know their people want not only a paycheck, but alignment with company values. They want to contribute to a purpose beyond profits, so leaders must ensure these values are publicized and practiced throughout the business.

Leaders are most effective when they communicate a noble purpose to every employee. Otherwise, people struggle to define why their work matters.

What’s it like where you work? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.

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