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Phil-CookeGreat leaders expect the best in people, and bad leaders expect the worst. Rinse and repeat.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of leaders who think leadership means constant criticism, ordering people around, snarky comments and humiliation. Those leaders (although I don’t think they’re real leaders at all) actually expect the worst in people, and that’s why they treat their teams so badly.

These leaders respond to everything as if you’re trying to cheat them. They use exclamation marks in all their communication. They’re always upset about something.

But guess what? You get back what you put out, and your team will start responding in the same way. You’re actually creating a culture of distrust and deception.

On the other hand, study after study, along with expert advice and lots of experience tell me that people respond far better to “aspirational” leadership. That simply means the leaders who expect the best in people are the leaders are actually get their people’s best.

Stop the snark. Cut the criticism. Being a bully doesn’t work. If you need to be a jerk to jack up your ego, you need to get out of leadership and find a counselor, because you need help.

Beginning today, let’s commit to encouraging our team’s best by expecting their best. Respect them. Care about their success. Give them space to fail, and stop being vindictive if they do. Grow together, and you’ll start seeing a dramatic change in your relationship, your results and your journey to success.

Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a media producer and strategist. His new book for church and nonprofit leaders is Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Branding and Social Media. Find out more at

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