What Do You Want From Me? Executives and Their Complicated Relationships with Followers...What they really want - Part 1: Introduction

By Ron Carucci

Tuesday, September 9th 2014

Part 1: Introduction

Adam Lambert's hit pop-rock anthem, What Do You Want from Me, could well be the lament of countless executives trying desperately to find ways to engage, inspire, motivate, challenge, and make those they lead happy. What's an executive to do? This blog series, based on our recently released Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives, explores the often imbalanced dynamic between executive and follower, and helps both view the often unrealistic expectations of followers through a more balanced lens.

Up until the last couple of decades, people in positions of authority were venerated simply because they were in those positions. Executives of companies were esteemed for their long, loyal careers and for rising up through the ranks of their organizations. And leaders were inherently trusted. Unrealistically seen as super-human, the reverence was overextended and misguided. Leaders were no less fallible then they are today. Whether or not executives in past generations were as corrupt as the spate of failures in the last decade suggests leaders are today, may never be known. What we can be sure of is that this residual impact of ethical and moral failure has led to a mindset that leaders are to be distrusted until proven trustworthy. And proving oneself trustworthy is becoming increasingly difficult.

Followers have grown intolerant of substandard executive leadership over the last decade, and have responded by raising the bar much higher. The inverse correlation between decreased trust and increased expectations with the implied requirement of walking on water.

Our new research suggests that the unforgiving nature of followers, and the harsh standards to which executives are now subjected, can make 'leading others' one of the most unpleasant aspects of executive leadership. Of course, no follower would ever admit to having these expectations, but their behavior and responses to their leaders' shortcomings tell a different story. Two-thirds of our respondents lament they spend too much time dealing with the performance shortfalls of others, while more than half feel they are held accountable for problems outside their control.

We have observed six routinely misapplied expectations from followers that, while rooted in reasonable desires, actually manifest themselves in no-win outcomes for both followers and their leaders. Each of the next six installments of this blog series will explore each more closely, along with effective strategies for managing these expectations. By exploring what followers really want, our hope is that you will be better equipped to proactively make and keep appropriate promises, and set healthy expectations with those you lead from the outset of your relationship.

Figure 6.1 Unrealistic expectation struture of executive leaders




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