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Updated 29 Sep 2020

Why you should be unreasonable with your expectations

All too often we’re told by society and communities that we must learn to be reasonable. We are told that being reasonable is a sign of virtue. I disagree. We should give ourselves permission to be unreasonable. 

Vusi Thembekwayo, Entrepreneur, 20 October 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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We are expected to understand when others perform in a manner that is consistent with their circumstance.

I am not reasonable. I refuse the rapid death of mediocrity caused by the allure of being reasonable. I expect to perform at the peak of possibility, beyond the reasonable to the edge of what is possible.

When you build anything, the single most important question to ask of yourself is, “What are you willing to accept?”

Building anything is a hard and time consuming exercise. You sacrifice more of yourself than you can imagine. Family time, a vibrant social life, the risk of investing your time and capital in a venture that could fail, and most importantly, the opportunity cost of building a corporate career elsewhere.

Over the past decade of building and eventually selling my business, I have seen more people come and go around me and my business than I care to remember.

Related: 9 Roles of strategic leadership you need in your business

To manage the levels of expectations I have of my people and they have of me, I developed the Three Laws of Expectation.

1. Be unreasonable

There is this dogma in management thinking and contemporary business literature that dictates that effective and authentic leaders should be reasonable with their demands and expectations.

It places on the person of power the extra burden to act within a specific set of rules, confines or norms. When you act and expect others to act beyond those rules and norms then you are seen as a social and cultural pariah.

Consider the literature or the corridor talk about Steve Jobs. What do people say? How was he experienced? How is he remembered?

Often commentators talk about his talent and abilities but then introduce the countenance to that: His high expectations of himself and those around him. He was — you may say — unrelenting in his pursuit of standards. But those same observers (and frankly, detractors too) will quickly add that what he achieved was not possible in a single lifetime for a man of lesser expectations.

Point: Be unreasonable. Expect and demand more of yourself and your people. Most people are average and mediocre. Your role as a manager and leader is to bring them to a higher level of thinking and working.

2. Possible is good enough

How many times have you heard someone say, that’s impossible? What they truly mean is, “that is going to be very difficult to achieve.” Remember my earlier statement, most people live in an average world that demands average performance of them, given average circumstances.

Leadership, as complex and counterbalanced an art and science as it is, is driven by your disposition. If you are willing to let people give you excuses for anything then you will build an organisation based on the weighted average performance of possible. Their perception of what is possible will dictate their output.

When reminded how hard it would be, and asked how he intends to reclaim the world championship title after such a difficult start to the latest season of Formula One, Lewis Hamilton said, “I don’t need easy. I just need possible!”

Remind yourself every morning that the difference between the teams, leaders and businesses that change the world and the ones that don’t is simply their willingness to accept what is possible.

Related: 6 Leadership styles you need to be the ultimate leader

3. Be honest; Stay accountable

This is the litmus test: If you are neither willing nor have the maturity to accept that you are the person ultimately responsible for how and what is in your life, then you cannot move forward. Power and agency are twin-sisters of achievement.

We achieve our best and develop to our full potential when we accept and act from a point of power. You are in charge. You determine the speed at which things move.

You determine the market forces that shape your business. You are responsible for your quality of team. You.

When you hear people say be reasonable, remember that what they are actually saying is, “let me act for, live in and perform inside my current scope of comfort.”

Give yourself permission to be unreasonable.

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About the author

Vusi Thembekwayo, Entrepreneur

Mr. Vusi Thembekwayo has been an Independent Non-Executive Director of at RBA Holdings Ltd. since May 14, 2013. Mr. Thembekwayo has already collected numerous accolades and awards as businessperson, entrepreneur and international public speaker. Mr. Thembekwayo completed a PDBA and a course on advanced valuation techniques with the Gordon Institute of Business Science and completed a Management Acceleration Programme (Cum Laude) with the Wits Business School. His speaking achievements include the international hit talk “The Black Sheep” which he delivered to the Top 40 CEOs in Southern Africa, addressing the Australian Houses of Parliament and speaking at the British House of Commons. To add to this, Vusi speaks in 4 of the 7 continents over 350 000 people each year.

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