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Leadership Series: Expect the Best From Your People

Your most important job as a leader is getting the most out of your people.

To do this, you must know how to motivate. This is the inspiration for our new series: Motivation Principles for Leadership.

The first principle is to expect the best from your people.

The "Watchdog" Leader

It's easy to become a "watchdog" as a leader.

Usually what got you the role of leader is your superior knowledge, experience, or skill. So it's easy from the outset to think that you have to monitor those underneath you for mistakes or shortcuts. Quickly your mission becomes, "prevent failure at all costs".

This "watchdog" leader is not the kind of leader you want to be.

Immediately, you create an adversarial relationship between you and your team. Nobody wants to follow this person. If they must, they'll do it with as much enthusiasm as getting a protractor from Grandma at Christmas (that really happened by the way).

Instead, don't waste your time digging into the failures of your people. Rather the goal of the motivational leader is to look for the strengths that have been overlooked and ways to elevate their gifts amongst the group.

Attitude is Everything

The #1 determining factor of success as a motivating leader isn't the talent of your people or even their individual attitudes...

It comes down to your attitude towards your people.

Here's the principle:

If people know we expect good things from them, they will (more often than not) go to great lengths to meet our expectations. If we expect the worst, they will meet those expectations with unfortunate precision.

Simply put, if you like your people and believe they have the best of intentions, you will get the best from them.

Practical Ways to Get The Best Out of Your People

  1. Believe your people have the best of intentions. Every one of us wants to believe that we have the best of intentions, and we want others to believe that as well. However, there is a fine line between the kind of drive that you have and that of your team members or direct reports. Just because someone you oversee isn't just like you, doesn't mean they don't have good intentions.
  2. Take Goethe's advice. "Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be."
  3. Be on the lookout for hidden capacities in your people. Moses stuttered. Einstein was 4 before he could speak and 7 before he could read. Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor for having "no good ideas". Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college. There have been many gifted persons throughout history who were initially overlooked...until someone showed belief in them. Be patient enough to wait until ability becomes apparent.
  4. Provide a space where your people can specialize, hone their skills, and discover their distinctiveness. Theodore Roosevelt said, "There are two kinds of success. One is the very rare kind that comes to the man who has the power to do what no one else has the power to do. That is genius. But the average man who wins what we call success is not a genius. He is a man who has merely the ordinary qualities that he shares with his fellows, but who has developed those ordinary qualities to a more than ordinary degree." Create an environment for your people to not only discover their gifts but also develop them.
  5. Embrace a kind of "defiant optimism". As president of Columbia University, Dwight D. Eisenhower called John Erskine, "the greatest teacher Columbia ever had." Erskine — an educator and lecturer, concert pianist, author of 60 books, head of the Julliard School of Music — was no doubt a very impressive individual. But how? His wife, Helen, wrote about his life and attributed his success to his "defiant optimism". Erskine would tell his wife often, "Let's tell our young people that the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best governments are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by them."

These are only a few examples of ways to embrace principle #1 of being a truly motivating leader: Expect the best from your people.

Called exists for this: Evangelize By Community.

We do so by empowering ministry leaders like you to build thriving groups and communities in 3 key ways:

  1. Building digital tools that enable effective communication, organization, and conversation all in one place. Download Called today (Apple Store or Google Play)
  2. Providing education on best practices for leadership, building communities, and using technology. Follow us on Linkedin.
  3. Connecting leaders with leaders to share and learn from each other on what works and doesn’t work via our leader's community on Called.