Consider a leader who’s smart, task-oriented, and has high standards. If their ambient level of stress is low, then their expectations of others and themselves likely aren’t problematic. If it’s high, then they may have a “should” problem—something I see in my coaching practice fairly regularly. These are leaders who fit the profile, and who are constantly disappointed and frustrated. Why? They have an internal list of the way things should be, and what they and others should and shouldn’t do, be, or know.
When what seem to be healthy high standards are taken too far, and not clarified / communicated before folks run afoul of them, they become toxic, and the impact is usually on the should-er, and not the should-ee. In fact, holding others to unspoken / unrealistic “should” standards is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die. You hurt mainly yourself when you find so much around you, well, unacceptable.
Indeed, acceptance, along with communication, is the solution to this self-induced situation. That is, accept things as being the way they are. Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean approval or agreement; it simply means realism—things are what they are. Catch your pattern of “should-ing” and stress goes down. Then communication can then kick in: “here’s what I expect of you. Here’s what I expect of myself. Now is that reasonable and do-able? Let’s work it out.”
As a leader, you owe it to yourself and your organization to check your should-factor, and ratchet it back to its positive intention: to want yourself and your team to do the best possible job. Communicate your expectations and negotiate them openly until they’re agreed. Barring that, it’s just toxic.