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The way others expect a leader to respond determines the way they respond to (and approach) that leader.

This is a valuable principle about leadership.

For example:

If they expect a leader to respond in anger.

They’ll dance around issues – never confronting them with you or bringing them to the leader’s attention.

The leader will seldom know the true health of your team or what others are thinking.

If they expect a leader to respond defensively or with a closed-mind to every new idea which doesn’t come from the leader.

They’ll only respond to the leader’s ideas – refusing to take risks of their own.

The organization will be limited to how creative the leader is. It will leave some of the best new ideas untapped and off the table.

If they expect the leader to respond with condemnation. 

They’ll be tempted to make excuses when things go wrong – and maybe try to hide them altogether.

The leader will be considered unsafe and treated as unapproachable.

If they expect a leader to respond with belittling or sarcasm.

They’ll never be serious with the leader. The leader never knows their true feelings – afraid the leader will crush them if they do.

Therefore, the leader never really knows people. Working relationships will be very surface-level and transactional.

If they expect the leader’s response to be the final say to every decision.

They’ll soon stop having new ideas. They’ll stop taking initiative on anything new.

The leader gets to run every meeting and feels very much in control, but the team isn’t really a team they are employees. And most likely the team feels very unfulfilled and under-utilized.

Insert your own examples here. You’ve likely seen this scenario previously.

The way a leader is expected to respond, built over time by experience, determines the way people respond to the leader. Every time.

However, the contrast is true:

If they expect a leader to respond with an open-mind.

They’ll be more likely to offer their opinions.

The organizational gets the best they have to offer. Creativity and dreaming is encouraged.

If they expect a leader’s response to be one of care and understanding.

They’ll be more likely to share their heart, their pain, and their life with others.

People will truly be known and leadership will be more relational and not strictly because of position.

If they expect the leader to respond with empowerment.

They’ll be more likely to take risks and try something new.

People will feel more a part of a team. Great things have a better potential to happen.

If they expect the leader to respond with grace.

They’ll be more likely to share the good, the bad and the ugly.

Failure will be acknowledged and be used to help individuals and the organization improve.

If they expect the leader’s response to be a supportive, listening ear.

They’ll come to the leader when they need to bounce ideas – even before they have all the answers.

The leader becomes part of their personal development, helping people improve individually and as a result they attempt to help the team get better.

Leaders, how do others expect you to respond?

There are so many other scenarios I could have offered. You have some of your own no doubt.

Think about it from how you respond. Don’t you tend to alter your response based on how you expect others to respond? Is this not true in family and friend relationships also? It certainly is in leadership.

Fair or not – as a leader, the response others expect from you may help determine the way others respond to you. Their response will be how we have conditioned them to respond to us, based on past experience of how we have responded to them.

More importantly, however, is ultimately our response to people in a great way determine the health of the team or organization.

Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss leadership nuggets in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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