How to Set Expectations as a Leader
Communicate, Maintain an Open Mind, and Listen Actively

Ok so I might have lied, this isn’t quite a how to set expectations post, but rather a manifesto of my personal expectations for people I work with. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that setting proper expectations is one of the most important characteristics of a good leader. One that I’ve failed at miserably in the past.

Leaders, does this sound familiar?

I communicate my expectations EXTREMELY WELL … to myself … in my own head … as an entirely internal dialog. Every once in a while, this pinnacle of fine internal oratory manages to squeak out of my head and into the ears of person it relates to. Every once in a while.

It just ain’t fair.

Communicating expectations clearly and continuously is one of the best things you can do as a leader. Don’t leave it for the quarterly meeting, where all the built up praise and angst tumbles from your lips like a amateur boxing fight.

I have high expectations for my team, and I don’t want to EVER have to lower them.

Am I crazy, am I expecting too much?

The short answer is that your gut knows what’s realistic and what’s over-the-top-wolf-on-wallstreet-madness. If your relaxed, grounded and organized, don’t reduce expectations based on team performance.

Expectations can change

Keep in mind these expectations are for finding core members 1-10. Beyond that, things might change a bit at employee 51. Right now, I need people soaked in ambition and dripping with creativity. I need people with strong opinions, a powerful voice and say no more than yes.

So what are my expectations?

Maybe I am crazy after all. Please do tell in the comments below if you think so. They aren’t in any partic

  • Show don’t tell If you expect to be given a leadership position, show me you can lead instead of telling me.
  • Invest in learning the tools that power our business.
  • Bring your a-game to the table, to meetings, to brainstorming sessions. We depend on your contributions.
  • Know our core values – We hire, fire, laugh and cry by these values. Don’t join without knowing if they align with your own core values.
  • Learn constantly – that never steps. Always be improving and looking for ways to be better. There is no room for stagnation.
  • Be comfortable with high expectations. Force me to raise my standard, instead of lowering it.
  • Be proactive – Don’t wait for leadership to identify stuff for you to do. Spend some time thinking and put together ideas on your own. We appreciate the pro-activeness more than you think.
  • Make continual progress – I have an incredible tolerance for learning, if they can show they’re working hard and making continual progress.
  • Measure yourself – If you can show that you have the self awareness to measure and improve on your own, your worth to the company just skyrocketed.
  • Ask for help – As leaders, it’s our job to help you and by far the most productive way we can spend our time. The only problem is, you have to ask for it, and know what to ask for.
  • Create space – Rushing from one task to the next is no way to grow. Take the time to invest in your self awareness and mindfulness. Demand space to think and review. I promise, you’ll work better and do the right things instead of ALL THE THINGS. Time for critical thinking simply cannot be an afterthought.
  • Balance – On one foot. No kidding, but all work no play makes Jack a dull boy. Show me that you care about harmony with your life and your work, that you invest in your health and that you realize the strong correlation between it all. We frown upon working harder, and expect you to Work Softer.


I tend to be pretty hard on myself. It’s challenging to not expect EVERYONE to see the world EXACTLY the way that I do. Hmmm, perhaps that’s another thing for me to work on? Regardless, I hope that this helps get you thinking about your expectations, and how you might refine and craft them for the world to see.

What are your thoughts on the matter?
What do you expect?
What do you struggle with?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.