Do We Sometimes Expect Too Much from Leaders?

“Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person.”

~ Mother Theresa

I am a big fan of leadership and people who demonstrate great leadership. I am also curious when leaders demonstrate anything but great leadership. Have you noticed that it seems like not a day goes by that we do not learn about some high ranking official or leader that is buried in corruption, lies or hypocrisy? Watergate, bridge-gate, nanny-gate, trooper-gate, bounty-gate: it’s enough to make us all cringe.  

The smoking surgeon, the cheating couples counselor, the swindling stockbroker, the corrupt politician- all leave us reaching for new lows of discouragement. Since the beginning of time, there has been good and evil, sinners and saints, leaders and crooks, believers and detractors, contributors and complainers. I doubt that any one of us is all of one and none of the other. But I assure you, for each leader that has disappointed us, there are many more that are and have changed this world for the better and beyond our wildest imaginations.

Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Gates, Jobs, Mandela, Madonna, Angelou, Roosevelt (Theodore and Eleanor), are just a handful of the famous inspiring leaders – the best in their field (and who also have their own flaws). In addition to the legends, there are countless, millions of leaders that live next door, across the street, at the office and in your family that model leadership with service and inspiration. I have friends that could teach a seminar about love. I have an aunt that could write a book on world cultures, a sister in law that could coach you on selflessness, clients that inspire me by their superior work ethic, a neighbor who models support of community, and colleagues that go after their dreams as if they could fly. I learn from others every day. We can all learn from each other and we all have something to teach.

Here’s what I am encouraging us all to consider. We sometimes want our leaders to be perfect and of course nobody is. We waste time focusing just on what’s wrong. Maybe we think that we can do a better job than our leaders. I bet that we probably can in some arenas and probably not in others.

I am not suggesting that we give those who abuse their power a break.  My intention is to encourage all of us not to let other people’s failures discourage us. Most of all, don’t let the failure of others feed your fear of achievement or your excuse to do anything but your best. We are all powerful and are all capable of doing amazing things, inspiring the world, reaching impossible heights. We also are all capable of letting others down, disappointing our colleagues and ourselves, or fumbling in the end zone. This paradox is part of the human experience. The same world that brought us Mussolini brought us Jesus. We have fire and water, day and night, sun and rain. Be inspired by brilliance and let disasters offer pause for our own reflection. But please, do not let the failure of others serve as an excuse not to be the best leader that YOU can be. When you do better, the world can do better. When you get better, the world gets better.

We may stumble and so may others. Run your own race, your best race. When you (or others) stumble, collect yourself, learn then keep going. When you reach your goals, celebrate, share, be generous and set new goals. Be inspired by others’ achievements whether they are famous or modest. Learn from others failures and of course from your own. Criticizing is easy and offers little in return. Leading is challenging and offers great rewards. Practice leadership every day, person to person.

Thank you for reading and for sharing this article.  I welcome your comments in the below comments section.  I wish you great happiness, learning and all the success that you can handle as you continue on your leadership journey.

your coach, fan and friend,


Helping Great Leaders Get Better  –  Better Leaders Make a Better World

Larysa Slobodian, MA


  1. Lisa February 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Thank you, Larysa, for reminding me that I can do amazing things. I feel like a bit of a fumbler lately. It is nice to know that even the ‘great ones’ have bad days…and still have fantastic and meaningful accomplishments. I definitely need to collect myself and rock on.

  2. Ray in SoCal February 20, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Great article (as always) Larysa! As you pointed out, none of us are perfect. As I read your article, I had a moment of reflection of my inner feelings when some “gate” occurs. I’m not proud to admit it, but I actually find some level of relief, or justification for my “less-than-perfect” actions. Gives me something to think about. Thank you.

  3. David Goodenough February 20, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Great article.

    Recently I remembered something that has happened to me in my work over and over regarding leadership. Two parts. One, leaders often think others should be like them i.e., self directed, self motivating, confident, etc. That is was typically got them into leadership positions and they just assume others can behave in similar ways and when they don’t exhibit the same strengths the leaders get angry and confront or loose confidence in that employee. Two, many of our leaders, particularly those in high places got there in odd ways i.e., they were elected or appointed or they were pushed forward due to bravado or risk taking. The problem is that they often have very little actual leadership experience. Most elected public officials i have met and worked with have managed very few people and then end up leading large numbers of people. Odd how that happens. They are often good facing externally but pretty bad as internal leaders.

  4. Larysa Slobodian February 20, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Great points David! Yes we often want or assume others are or should be like us. I see it all the time (and have been there myself). Thanks for reading and for sharing your wisdom.

    Larysa Slobodian
  5. Larysa Slobodian February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Lisa, you do amazing things every day!

    Larysa Slobodian
  6. Larysa Slobodian February 20, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Hi Ray! I really appreciate your comment. I bet there are plenty of us if not all of us that feel the same way as you do at times. Thanks for putting it out there for all of us to see and reflect upon. You are awesome.

    Larysa Slobodian
  7. Pam February 21, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Good article, Larysa. I do sometimes think we expect our leaders to all be messiahs, burdening them with expectations that no one could possibly meet. And I like your call to dust ourselves off when our leadership fails or falters, and try again. Just one thought — you mention the “sinners and saints” among leaders, but I’ve thought sometimes that these are often located in the same person; that the same flaws that sometimes contribute to the failures and limitations of leaders are also, potentially, sources of great strength. Do you think this is true? Can you think of examples of this? I’m pondering it too….

  8. Larysa Slobodian February 21, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Thank you for reading and for the thoughtful comment Pam. I do believe that we are both “sinners and saints”. I also notice that when we (and that includes me) sit back and judge the failed leader, we are also judging and disavowing that “failed” part of ourselves. Perhaps that is another article. We are not all of one and none of the other. And I am inviting, in this article, not to let that judgment or that disappointment either in the other or in ourselves, keep us from moving forward, from perusing our own mountain tops.

    Larysa Slobodian
  9. Sabina February 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Great read Larysa – it mirrors my own thoughts when I read about the latest scandal. Each of us is human and the whole is what makes us the leader we are. There are some failures that are harder to recover from but that doesn’t mean we should throw out the positives that that person brought to the world. Compassion and appreciation are the things I’m taking away from your article.

  10. Larysa Slobodian February 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Thanks Sabina. I always appreciate your comments and insights. Yes compassion, for others and ourselves as we are all leaders too. The failures and flaws and the great achievements are all part of me and I can’t have only one and not the other. Thank you.

    Larysa Slobodian
  11. Lauren February 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    I’ve not thought of leadership as something that can be practiced on a person-to-person basis rather than to groups of people, so I really appreciate the article. Thanks for sharing, Larysa!

  12. Larysa Slobodian February 25, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    Thank you for your comment Lauren and keep practicing leadership, person to person, with groups as well as just yourself.

    Larysa Slobodian

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