Keep expectations reasonable to avoid courting failure  

Tuesday August 31 2021

A presentation on objectives and expectations. Leaders hold others accountable but must be willing to hold themselves up to their own standard. PHOTO | FILE


Two weeks ago I started a discussion on some of the biggest lessons that I have learnt in over five decades. These are things that have helped in leadership in business and life.

Many were learnt from making mistakes. Experience is often touted as the best teacher but it can also be the most painful teacher. The wise person learns from the mistakes of others but a fool insists on making his own. This set of rules which I call the Wale Rules have helped shaped my philosophy. I hope they add value to you too.

Wale Rule One was is to avoid procrastination. Rule Two is to understand the power of emotional authority in leadership. Today, I share thoughts on Rule Three on maintaining a rightly calibrated table of expectation.

Never let your expectations of others be higher than those of yourself. Never peg your destiny on factors you have no control over. In essence, never leave the driver’s seat of your life. When I started driving, my mother taught me a timeless lesson. She said, “When driving, assume you are the only sane person on the road. See every other driver as a lunatic and you will become a very good and careful driver.”

If you allow your happiness and emotional states to be controlled from without, you will be easy prey for emotional swings. Emotional authority starts with power over self. Leaders that are prone to emotional outbursts — who have not mastered control over emotions are dangerous because they will wield influence on the whims of emotion.

In the movie The rise and fall of Idi Amin, we saw what is possible when an emotionally weakling is in power. Several high-profile executions were carried out after Amin spoke out.


Emotionally weak leaders are a threat. In the 2006 movie, The devil wears Prada, Meryl Streep starred as Miranda Priestly, a powerful fashion magazine editor.

Miranda was the boss everyone dreaded having. She was the one no one wanted. She cut her staff down to size giving the illusion of a tough no-nonsense boss but it was later discovered to be a mask. She was battling her own personal emotional demons and this spilled over into the workplace. Instead of being an inspiring leader, she intimidated all.

Such people throw blame at everyone except self. You hold others accountable but are unwilling or incapable of holding yourself up to your own standard.

Ever so often, we hear people describe some leaders as flawless but surrounded by baddies. One Nigerian president was widely praised for his honesty yet some of his Cabinet were the most corrupt people in the nation’s history.

People peddling narratives of good leaders surrounded by bad apples are inadvertently saying that the leader is too weak to tame his/her troops. They paint the leader as a victim. How can someone called to lead a nation of millions of people fail to successfully lead a 40-member Cabinet?

Having a rightly calibrated table of expectations means you will hold yourself accountable, take charge of your emotions and take responsibility for your actions. Next time you realise you are expecting more from people than you do of yourself, pause and recalibrate.

Wale Akinyemi is convenor of the Street University ( and chief transformation officer PowerTalks; [email protected]