Getting Honest About the You on the Surface

Leaders do not have the luxury of saying, “This is who I am. They will just have to understand that this is how I _____________ .” You can fill in the blank with a lot of words: communicate, motivate, lead, show appreciation, correct, etc. The point is that everything has an impact on the way people perceive us as leaders. That perception of us makes a huge difference in how effective we are as leaders. Notice, it’s more, much more, about their perception of us, than it is our perception of ourselves.

Certainly there are things that we may not be able to change about ourselves. For example, I know of a great leader who has a speech impediment. He has worked hard throughout life to correct it, and he has made substantial progress in overcoming it. Nevertheless, it still shows up at times. This has not kept him, however, from becoming a great leader and a great communicator. He has mastered the technique of, while working to minimize it, knowing how to use it in a disarming way to help him be more effective.

You may be able to think of things about yourself that you have limited control over changing. Certain things about our physical body may fall into this category.

However, when it comes to leadership and communication skills, I would suggest that simply saying, “That’s the way I am” is not the best way to approach weaknesses. For example, saying, “The tone of voice that you hear me use is not really me, it’s just how I sound” is refusing to accept ownership for how you are impacting the people around you. The burden of communication is largely upon the shoulders of the sender. If you recognize that your tone of voice is not congruent with the intent of the heart, why would you expect the receiver of the message to “decipher” that? Perhaps it is simply easier to use the tone of voice that you’ve always used rather than to develop the discipline of self-awareness and self-control; but leaders, great leaders, do not have that luxury.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and spending too much energy on improving your weaknesses may not be the best use of your time. However, no matter how strong your strengths are, if your weaknesses are “deal breakers,” then these weaknesses, not your strengths, will be the thermostat that controls your effectiveness.

Maybe it’s time for a self-checkup. Take a look at it from the other side of the table. If you didn’t “know” the real you, would you follow the “surface” you? If you aren’t so sure, maybe the truth is that explains why they aren’t either.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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