How are you perceived as a leader?

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Should you care what people think of you?

The popular advice says be bold – don’t let other people drive you. Do your thing.  Ignore the haters. This is great motivational advice for people-pleasers with low self-esteem.

However, for leaders it’s crucial to be aware of how you’re perceived. Think about it, any brand wanting to get their message across works on audience perception. As a leader you are an influencer. Why wouldn’t you also work on audience perception?

How are you perceived?

  • Smart, capable, steady
  • Erratic, schizophrenic, moody
  • Professional
  • Fun
  • Thoughtful
  • Complicated
  • Aloof

Find out how you are perceived. Ask trusted advisors. Ask your teams. Will the perception affect your ability to influence and get things done?

Are you comfortable with these perceptions? Are they consistent with the persona you want to portray? Most importantly are the perceptions really you?

The self-awareness that comes from this analysis will allow you to ensure that the perception of you is congruent with the perception that is most productive. You will naturally make changes in your behavior.

Evaluate actions based on how they will be perceived. This simply has to be part of any analysis whether we like it or not.

Spin? Not really. An attention to how things are perceived is just smart leadership. For example, if a group of your constituents thinks you’re an idiot based on a decision, a real leader takes time to explain how the decision was made to support the strategy. This is an opportunity to teach.

Or if the next step you take could be considered going back on a prior agreement, take time to explain how the field changed requiring the different approach. Reconcile. Help people understand decisions. Help people empathize with the challenges. This will help teach critical thinking and decision making as well.

Necessary? YES. Weak? The opposite – shows strength and consistency.

How much do you think about perception in your work as a leader? Please share in the comments section.

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Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On July 21, 2015
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