Those who know me well have heard me say this many times. It doesn’t really matter how you THINK you’re perceived. What matters more is how you are ACTUALLY perceived. Perception is reality.
Leadership is about trying to breakdown these “perception barriers” so you can connect better with those you lead. And by breaking barriers down I don’t mean convincing people their perceptions are wrong. They very well may be true! It’s about looking yourself through others’ eyes, being honest about the validity of their perceptions, and adjusting your style through positive action to show that it’s either misguided or something you need to shift within yourself.
Here is a perception I have of myself: I am a caring, compassionate human who connects with and appreciates people. I am open and am willing to change my mind. I like getting to know people to understand what motivates them. Yes, I am driven and have a powerful personality but that doesn’t mean that I am unapproachable. I see myself as really LISTENING to people…most of the time.
But the reality is that some see me as intimidating and hard to talk to. Some think that I don’t listen. That I can overwhelm with my personality and that it’s hard to win an argument with me. I have the power to hire and fire. And some people avoid talking to me at all costs.
So which perception is true? Well, both. Just because I see myself as open-minded and easy to talk to doesn’t mean that I am to everyone I lead. To be honest, I am all of the things I listed above. My strong leadership style HAS shut down people before and I am painfully aware of the times when I unintentionally alienated people in my drive to proceed and achieve. But it has also connected deeply with many people who look to me for guidance and friendship. My goal is to embrace the feedback that I get, whether I think it’s accurate or not, and address it with curiosity and a genuine desire to connect with people on a deeper level. And that’s what leadership is all about…breaking down barriers once you realize that perception is reality.
Like this? Check out my blog on what I learned while leading through a crisis.