“Great leaders under-promise and over-deliver.”

After beating the Cleveland Indians in the 1995 World Series, the Atlanta Braves engraved, “Team of the 90s,” on their rings. That turned out to be their only championship win that decade!

Leaders must manage not only results, but also everyone’s expectations including their own. Great leaders never short-cut the planning process. If they err, it’s always on the conservative side.

Salesmen are usually ambitious when making projections. That’s why they seldom make good managers because they often make promises they cannot deliver. Good managers and great salesman create the healthy tension between realistic expectations and deliverable results.

Great leaders are inspirational but never at the cost of disappointment when the anticipated results don’t meet the expectations. Often, new or inexperienced leaders allow their managers to base their projections on best-case scenarios. When it doesn’t happen, those same leaders are difficult to find and seldom held accountable.

Make promises only when you are at least reasonably positive you can deliver. Everyone should use common sense. But if you live long enough, you understand how common sense is not so common. In the long run, grand rhetorical promises undermine a leader’s credibility. And if not corrected, erodes his authority to lead and will tarnish his reputation.

Don’t turn a victory into a defeat by announcing your expectations before you know and accept the implications if you are wrong. If you do, you risk turning a positive development into a disappointment because it did not meet the expectations. Remember the newspaper headlines announcing the winner of the 1948 Presidential election: “Dewey beats Truman.”

Great leaders let their team know how he expects them to behave. But, he also expects them to use their best judgment, not canonize his ideas and preferences because of fear, intimidation or lack of confidence. If your team says your expectations are not realistic and you trust them, adjust your expectations. If you don’t trust them, why are they still on your team?

Don’t push your team to do what you would not do. When you over-promise and under-deliver, it always disappoints the team as well as those you are trying to reach.

As a leader, what’s the last thing you promised, but couldn’t deliver? You may have forgotten, but I can assure you there are team members who have not.