How to Lead from Expectations

by  Guest Author  |  Leadership Coaching
How to Lead from Expectations

This post is part of our 2016 Lead Change Group Guest Blogger Series. Today we are pleased to introduce you to leadership coach and author Kimunya Mugo.

From the moment she walked in, I knew things would not go well.

We were interviewing for a position in my department. This lady was the second of five interviewees that day. Immediately, my attention was drawn to her dressing. Yes she wore a black skirt suit. But it was a little too revealing.

What did she expect me to do? Did she want me to assess her suitability for the position? Or was she out to distract the male panelists? This was something that did not sit well with me. I expected a professional demeanor.

That minimum expectation weighed heavily on my selection criteria. In setting her expectations in the wrong place, it affected everything else she had to offer. Suffice to say, she did not get the job.

Sometimes, I find myself approaching leadership on autopilot. And this complacency is dangerous. Not only does it undermine my leadership, it compromises my character. Just like the lady in the interview, I make assumptions that people know what is expected of them.

Why is it essential to define my expectations? Because this attitude cultivates mutually beneficial outcomes between my followers and me.

Expectations have a direct link to my ability to maintain a clear head, articulate facts well and balance my approach to problems.

When expectations are understood, you capture people’s hearts as well as their minds. It provides them with the opportunity to ask quality questions. As Nancy Willard notes, “Answers are closed rooms; and questions are open doors that invite us in.”

Here are three keys to leadership that matters: reasons why I propose we need to lead from expectations.

1. Define boundaries

Expectations provide safe limits for people to work within. For example, if you encounter an electric fence, it means something important is under protection. If for some reason you decide to breach this fence, the electric current may hurt you. Actually, chances of arrest for trespassing are very high.

This is what expectations provide for in any meaningful relationship. They give clarity for what needs to be done, by whom, and the timeline. Furthermore, everyone understands how activities will be carried out.

2. Provide freedom

Most of us have worked in stomach-ulcer-inducing jobs. Even before you start on a task, it feels like a noose is gradually tightening on you. Given the opportunity, you will run for the hills and never come back.

However, where expectations are known, work performance seems to improve exponentially. You feel free and inspired to growth. And this is driven by the desired outcome that is defined by those expectations.

3. Promote ownership

What had become crystal clear to me is that expectations have a direct link to better accountability. They clarify people’s personal or departmental vision and goals in light of where the organization is going. There is a deep appreciation of what is required of them.

This is because expectations must have an owner. Then, the right people must be connected together. This informal network becomes the critical hub to the delivery of the broader team expectations.

“Positive expectations are the mark of the superior personality.” ~ Brian Tracy

Leading from expectations can be challenging. But once you make it a habit, everyone works together like a well-oiled machine.

kimunya mugoKimunya Mugo is a leadership coach, communication specialist and author. He helps motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy. You can follow more of Kimunya on his blog.



How have unclear expectations affected your work or relationships?

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What People Are Saying

John E. Smith  |  07 Jun 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Kimunya – excellent post with three strong points about leadership.

You are definitely onto something important with your emphasis on understanding the expectations inherent in work.

I participated in a webinar earlier today where this was discussed from a team perspective. The webinar leader noted the importance of understanding the expectations of the leader for the team, of the team for the leader, and of those outside the team for the team.

This multi-dimensional view of expectations was quite helpful and fits nicely with your post.

I also enjoyed your opening story … you put quite an image in my mind of both the interviewee and yourself in that situation:)


Kimunya Mugo  |  08 Jun 2016  |  Reply

Hi John! Great to hear from you, and thank you for your wonderful comment. This is a topic I want to dig deeper into. Your thoughts are giving wings to something I am toying with. It may end up as a longer piece, perhaps even a book :-)

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