Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Op-ed #1

The trouble with high expectations-can you ever meet them?”


In my continuing effort to evolve and grow, for the next several weeks I will be trying to treat this as an op-ed format and I will be expressing an opinion about a wide array of topics.  I hope it generates some discussion and feedback.


It is essential that you hold realistic high expectations for everyone regardless of his or her ability to meet them.


As the principal of a school or a leader of an organization, to be successful you must hold high expectations for everyone.  As a principal this includes not only your students but your teachers. And while you are holding high expectations for everyone, do not forget yourself.

My assertion about high expectations is easy to make.  However, you can never forget that to achieve these high expectations you must give each person a variety of avenues to meet them.  Everyone is not going to be able to take the same route to meet your expectations.

A teacher cheats his or her students when they do not hold high expectations for success. Likewise, a principal will cheat his or her teachers by holding them too, to lower expectations.  I really believe that people when challenged correctly will perform “up” to his or her new expected level of performance.  You see this all the time on the athletic field when a subpar team will perform beyond their expectations when playing a superior opponent.  Likewise, the reverse can also be true and teams will play “down” to an inferior opponent.

I have seen far too often the performance of students or teachers held back because of low expectations.  Students are given a C in the teacher’s mind before classes ever start.  Their performance is determined before they ever set foot in the classroom because of low expectations or preconceived notions.

The same can be said for teachers.  There were times I entered a classroom expecting to see a minimal level of proficiency and left surprised when I saw good teaching.  The reverse is also true.  When I expected superior instruction and left seeing a very average performance, I was disappointed.  I should have been expecting a high level of performance from everyone. 

We have discussed many times in this forum the concept of mediocrity as compared to excellence. Many people are happy being mediocre.  Teachers and students will do the minimum to get by.  If you allow this as the principal, shame on you.  Of course, being mediocre is easy.  Why not be great?

Both students and staff have shown, if they are allowed, that they will readily sign on to this “contract of mediocrity.”  Maybe you have conditioned yourself to be happy with this level of performance.  I haven’t.

Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

I think I will keep chasing perfection, will you?

2 thoughts on “Leadership”

  1. Ultimately the ignominy one must bear for signing the “contract of mediocrity “ is far more burdensome than the grunt and toil that comes with striving for the elusive goal of perfection. This article is a sobering reminder of why we have committed our hands to the noble task of educating children.

    1. Your point is well taken about the students. But does the same standard apply to the teachers? Too many of the adults in the schools have signed on to the contract of mediocrity. This is the real sin and to me crime. Thanks for reading and thanks for your input.

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