Exception Or Expectation

Someone said the most interesting thing to me at lunch this week. Perhaps you’ve heard it before, but I found it helpful:

Most leaders manage by exception. Good leaders manage by expectation.

Leaders who manage by exception are unclear in their direction and often absent in their supervision. They only shift into “management mode” when some exception occurs, such as when the person who reports to them underperforms.

If it sounds like I know what that’s like, it’s because all too often I’ve done it.

On the other hand, leaders who manage by expectation are vivid in their direction and present in their supervision. They lay out clear goals and then follow up to ensure that those goals are getting accomplished.

I am learning this kind of leadership. I’ve started systems with some of the new members of our staff team that would have never occurred to me five or ten years ago.

Perhaps in managing by expectation I’m learning to manage the one staffer who continually gives me the most trouble: me.