One of the more challenging problems of exercising leadership is addressing the expectations people have of you “the leader.” This takes different forms from employees’ expectations for advancement to expectations of outcome from your board or those senior to you.
How many times have people in your organization been disappointed because they didn’t receive a promotion, salary increase, or a new assignment? In the military, there is a very structured evaluation process; annual effectiveness reports. People would become disappointed if they didn’t receive the rating they expected, or even worse, were not selected for promotion by the promotion board. The military, like large corporations, is a bureaucratic organization where people can almost seem to get lost and when promotion time comes, there can be disappointment. In my military career, some of my most capable and loyal people were passed over for promotion. What I did was continue to challenge and encourage them and use their talents as productively as I could while working to get them promoted the next round. That is the exercise of leadership; to take on the hopes, dreams, challenges, and disappointments of the people, and return them in a way that provides hope and encouragement, so they can continue to accomplish the tasks at hand.
Project expectations and anticipation of success on the battlefield also require the attention of you “the leader” so that people inside and outside the organization understand that there are always risks and tradeoffs with any endeavor. No matter the decision or the outcome there will always be people who are disappointed. In the past couple of Blogs, I’ve talked about a major building project in which I was involved. At the outset of this project, everyone was looking forward to a larger building with more guest rooms and a very ornate building design. Unfortunately, the building design did not fit into the very real cost constraints. My job was to make the tough decisions to remove a complete floor from the design (15 guest rooms) and change a very lovely architecture to rooms without balconies, and a much simpler roof design. However, my job was also to assure people that the functionality of the redesigned building would allow us to carry out our very important mission. Helping people accept those types of changes without discouragement are the job of you “the leader.”
I was involved in the U.S. intervention in Grenada in 1983. At the outset, the higher levels of government expected a smooth operation with limited or no opposition. In other words, it was expected to be a walk in the park. But the special operations joint task force commander was wise in this matter and we planned for much more than met the eye. Little did we know that there would be two battalions of Cuban soldiers on the island and anti-aircraft artillery that nearly disrupted the complete insertion of our Rangers into Point Salinas Airfield. While the outcome was very favorable, it wasn’t without major problems and with some loss of life. But the Joint Task Force Commander, Major General Dick Scholtes played his role well with both those under his command and the combatant commander to which we were assigned, so everyone knew there would be risks involved and no one that I knew took the operations lightly.
Life, in general, can be full of unmet expectations, disappointments, and even failure to the point where one might lose sight of what their real worth is. As one who knows the ONE, I try to remember that in all circumstances, my real job is to bring honor and glory to the Lord. I am one of His children, I really work for Him, and no matter who else judges me, I still have great value to the Lord. It puts the aspects of unmet expectations in their proper place and gives the follower of Jesus a tremendous freedom. The apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7). And in his letter to the Colossians, he said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . .” (Col. 3:23). Maybe easier said than done, but all things are possible through Him.