Especially for leaders: perception is reality.

No matter how you view yourself, your profile as a leader will be constructed for you by those with whom you work and interact.  ~Jordan Tinney

perception is realityThis past week I was working with a group of individuals who all hold the same position.  One of a number of tasks was to identify two new supervisors/managers for this group.  The basic qualifications for the position would have been met by all of the individuals currently in the group.

I was meeting with them and working through all of their questions, one by one, about the process to select supervisors, and was asked, “Will the new supervisors be selected based on impression or on fact”?  I responded with, “In this case, impression is fact.”  I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but truthful.

First, number of years of experience, tenure, and so on, gets you in the pool of candidates, but it doesn’t dictate the final decision.  Second, the real determining factor, as in this case, is how you are perceived to handle supervisory or management challenges.  As an example, here are the criteria for this position:

  • Recognizes and considers multiple sides of a supervisory challenge.
  • Makes objective and unbiased decisions about a supervisory challenge.
  • Provides feedback (up and down) with candor and kindness.
  • Demonstrates willingness and capacity to improvise to meet changing priorities.
  • Goes above and beyond the tasks assigned to enhance the department’s work. Examples could include: jumping in when needed; maintaining a good attitude no matter what; building relationships, trust, and an information network; staying out of politics; being a good follower when the situation dictates it; and learns others’ styles and adjusts their own to meet them.

In a 2011 article in the Journal of Leadership Education Donna Jackson wrote about how capturing your essence as a leader extends beyond “title, length of time with your school system, and paycheck stubs.”  She said that “your own understanding of leadership must include a grasp of how you interact with the environment around you.  No matter how we view our personal abilities or profile, authenticity is measured when others working with you are open and willing to stand behind or with you.”

In other words, impression is fact.

I’m often surprised how frequently leaders forget that how their behavior impacts others is paramount to their success as a leader.  No matter the number of diplomas and awards on the wall, years of tenure, or digits in your pay stub, it’s whether others working with you are open and willing to stand behind or with you that will determine your success as a leader.  And the majority of the time, that is based upon impression.

What impression are you making?

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