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Hard Won Lessons on Leadership – Part Six


A few weeks ago I was teaching a group of young fathers and was asked this question, “How do I build confidence with my children for me as a godly father?”

I doubt if there’s ever been a true Christian and a parent, who has not asked that question. It’s the Holy Grail of both Christian parenting and Christian leadership, in general. So my answers will address all Christians who aspire to be men and women of integrity, on the job or in the home.

My answer to that father’s question was this; “Either live up to your children’s expectation for a true follower of Jesus, and/or manage their expectations.” The group understood the first half of my answer, but didn’t understand my “manage their expectations” advice. It sounded to them like a copout – an excuse for under-performing. I disagreed.

Here’s why I believe both observations are so important to build confidence in those you lead.

Live up to the expectation of those you lead. Every child, every employee or member of a team has certain expectations of their leaders. And, if you don’t live up to their expectations, in their minds you are a failure! It doesn’t matter if their expectations are totally unreasonable. If they believe it, and you don’t deliver, their confidence in you goes right out the window. And many of you have been in that position. So, how do we live up to the high expectations of others?

1. Live up to God’s expectations first. There are certain character qualities and virtues every true follower of Jesus is to live out, if they hope to represent God in this world. Colossians 3 is one of my favorite passages of the Bible for reminding me of what Jesus expects from his priesthood of believers.

Because all humans are created in the image of God, which includes a moral compass, when we meet or attempt to meet God’s expectations, we will also meet the character qualities others expect of us. It’s not always possible to live up to the performance expectations of others; however, we can live up to their character expectations.

2. Attempt to find out what expectations others have of you. I once met with a couple who were in trouble relationally. She claimed he worked all the time. But, he thought he was a good father and husband. “I just don’t know what will make her happy!” he said in frustration.

So, I turned to this wife and asked her if she would take a few days to write down exactly what would make her happy. And, she did. When her husband saw her list, with only minor exceptions, he said, “I can do this!” Often the problem of unmet expectations is a misunderstanding of just what those expectations are.

A high school student I was mentoring, played tennis and was frustrated with his father. While he was grateful his dad would take time out of his busy schedule to come to his tennis matches, almost every time the son looked into the stands his father was looking at his phone, not watching him!

“Have you told him how you feel?” I asked. “No, he’d never get it. Work is simply more important to him than watching me.” I urged him to tell his father how he felt. “Thank him for coming to your matches, but tell him what you’re feeling and why. When the father heard his son’s observations, he understood immediately and from that day forward, his phone stayed in the car.

Try this; ask your child, spouse or co-worker. “Is there anything I do that falls short of your expectations for me?” Notice, that you’re only asking the question, not promising a solution, because we will never be able to meet everyone’s expectations. But at least, be aware of what they are. So, you can determine if and how you can meet their expectations.

Managing the expectations of others. On this website, just before every blog is this statement, “Here’s how this site works. I’ll post every Monday for sure and more if God gives me something worthwhile to say.” Some bloggers post every day. I don’t want to live on my computer, so by making that statement I’m hoping to manage your expectations. The successful manager, father, mother or team leader sets reasonable goals for themselves and lets others know what they are so people don’t expect you to deliver more than you feel you can or should.

A woman I know going through some difficult things with getting her parents into nursing care, sat down with her children and told them what to expect of her. “Kids, right now I’m overwhelmed with some issues. I know I’m short tempered, but it’s not because of you. I’m asking for your understanding until I get some of the issues resolved in the next few weeks.” That woman knew how to manage her family’s expectations.

Remember the story of the workaholic husband? What I didn’t tell you is that after he received from his wife, her expectations, he clarified several things to manage her expectations: She had asked that he be home by 6:00 p.m. every evening and asked that he not check his computer or phone for messages. He responded that given the nature of his job, he could commit to an average of four days a week, home by six. Also, he’d not check for any messages until after the kids were in bed and only answer those that were critical. “Is that okay with you?”, he asked his wife. He was managing her expectations while meeting almost all of hers. A “win-win” is not only good business, it’s good Christianity.

“Look to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phil 2:4

Question: Please share with us how you’ve managed the expectations others have of you.

Following Jesus in Real Life

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