average“A leader’s focus on contribution by itself is a powerful force in developing people. People adjust to the level of the demands made on them. The leader who sets his/her sights on contribution, raises the sights and standards of everyone with whom he/she works.”  — Peter Drucker

Researchers once did an experiment with children in classrooms. They took average kids and randomly divided them into three groups. A teacher was assigned to each group. One teacher was told that their kids were above average children, a second teacher was told their kids were average, and a third teacher was told their kids were below average. At end of year, they tested the kids. The “above average” kids scored above average. The “average” kids scored average. The “below average” kids scored below average. The only variable was the expectation of the teacher:  students rose to the level of what the teacher was expecting.

The principle for emerging leaders? If you have high expectations for new and emerging leaders, they will tend to rise to the level you expect. The impact of expectations tapers off once the leaders have experience and are no longer “new” leaders, but in the early stages of development the principle of expectations has significant potential for long-term impact on those you’re developing.

If you are focusing your own sights on what you need to contribute as a leader, you will ask the same question of your people. They will learn to expect what type of contribution they are to make. When people on a team are asking each other, “What do you need from me for you to be able to make your contribution?” and telling each other, “This is what I need from you so I can make my contribution,” you have the basis of a very productive– and “above average”– team.