Any one of us is a leader only so long as people agree to follow us, so if you don’t start from a place of walking the talk, of practicing what you preach, of holding yourself to the same high expectations you set for others, then you undermine your credibility from the start. It’s not that complicated. Ask yourself: Would I want to follow a leader who says one thing and does another?

Modeling expectations is important but it’s not enough. You also have to set expectations for others and create conditions where those expectations can be achieved. All leaders do this to some degree, but leaders with edge make sure to set the bar high (yet not so high that people feel like they can’t reach it) and help people grow and stretch their boundaries (for their own sake and for the sake of the organization). It’s the job of leaders to keep the focus on growth and continuous improvement on every level – for themselves, for each of their direct reports, collectively as a team, as a department, and as an organization.

Ask yourself: Does every single one of my direct reports know exactly what they need to do to succeed? Does every single one of my direct reports’ direct reports know what they need to do to succeed? Is everyone crystal clear on their goals and how those goals contribute to the growth of the company?

If you aren’t sure of the answer to any of these questions, ask people to articulate their goals for you. Taking the time to set clear, no-nonsense goals is one of the best ways to drive success. It promotes a real awareness among your team members so they understand how to measure their own worth, particularly when you pair it with regular feedback and knowledge building. It means people can see the progress they are making and the value they have to the company at all times. It keeps them focused on the things that will truly grow the company and motivates them to stay that course. This is the advantage of building a no-surprises culture in which no one ever has to guess what they need to do or where they stand at any given time. 

It’s the leader’s job to make goals and expectations as clear and simple as possible so that team members can focus their time and energy on achieving real results – not on trying to figure out what they should be doing next to get ahead.

This extract, adapted from Leading With Edge: Activate Your Competitive Advantage Through Personal Insight by Jose R. Costa, is ©2018 and reproduced with permission from the author.