Leadership has evolved. Once upon a time, leadership was a straightforward matter: Be controlling, as well as directive. We expected leaders to issue commands — and they did. No one dared to “push back,” as we like to call it now. As society changes, so does leadership. We expect so much more from leaders than in generations past. Perhaps, this is why we feel that great leaders are in short supply.
Today, we expect leaders to push us, comfort us, and evaluate us. Yet, we also want them to keep the worst of their thoughts to themselves. We crave authentic leaders who, like us, are human and have families and issues much like we do. Can they change a diaper? We want to work with them, not for them. Of course, we also want them to display confidence, poise under pressure, and sound judgment. Also on our list for leaders: Be comforting at the delicate times, say the right things when it matters, and shut up when it doesn’t. We like them best when they let others hold the floor and listen deeply, primarily to us. And this is just table stakes.
For a leader to be special in our minds, we end up holding them to an unattainable standard. But that won’t stop us from wanting and demanding even more from those who carry the title. Our expectations for leaders have evolved and will continue to do so. Such high expectations are hard to live up to — just ask any long-standing leader almost anywhere. We expect an awful lot from our leaders. No wonder they usually fail to measure up.