Career Advice Career Doctor

Delicate balancing act of a true leader


I spent the last several years selecting, mentoring and developing a young team of managers to help me oversee part of the expansion of the company’s operations. They were all quite inexperienced, but I saw the potential in each of them and they were already respected and well-liked by their peers before I promoted them.

My own bosses were initially sceptical and wanted to bring in external hires to fill the new middle management positions, but I convinced them that it would be more effective to promote internally if the new managers hoped to have influence over their teams.

For a while, my bosses were distracted by the wider expansions and left us alone, giving me time and space to train my team and gradually give them more responsibilities as they grew in skill and confidence. But eventually their attentions went back to us and they started demanding increased targets, better performance reports, and more ambitious timelines.

Maybe I was too good at selling the potential of my team, I don’t know. But my boss’ expectations are very unrealistic, and part of me wonders if this is some kind of test. Whatever it is, despite my team’s best efforts, they have understandably been finding it difficult to fully achieve on the deliverables set by my bosses.

This has led to some criticisms of my team from the company leadership, who view them as a disappointing experiment and who refuse to take any responsibility for their role in creating unfair expectations. Even when I try and present fair action plans that take into account what can reasonably be expected, my bosses reject this and force me to apply their timelines.

I’m torn between protecting my team, and preserving my career. I truly believe in my team, but I think the only way I can advocate for them strong enough will require me to sacrifice more political capital at work, and I’m not even sure what the outcome would be.