Managing Perceptions: Refuse to be Held HostagePosted on October 11, 2015

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders allow themselves to be kidnapped by perceptions when they take them too seriously. They may perceive they are helpless or that their options are few. Leaders may believe they must please everyone or mistakenly perceive they cannot proceed without a consensus. They may feel the need to be loved or paralyzed by their fear of criticism. Instead of managing perceptions, hijacked leaders allow perceptions to manage them.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The case for refusing to allow perceptions to call the shots is straightforward. If you perceive you are helpless, you are. If you believe you have no options, you don’t. If you conclude you can’t proceed without everyone’s support, you can’t. These perceptions, while powerful, are just perceptions. Successful leaders find ways to act in spite of them.

How can you do it?

Clarify your perceptions first. Be honest. This is not the time to pretend that you don’t feel the way you do. You cannot as easily disentangle yourself from inhibiting perceptions you have not recognized.

Decide how you would act if you perceived the situation differently. This perspective will reveal a whole new set of leadership options you did not realize you had.

Consult with trusted colleagues who perceive your situation differently. Their views will help you realize that your perceptions are not reality. They are just perceptions.

Act in spite of the way you feel. An astonishing thing will happen. As you act with determination and boldness, your perceptions will change. You will no longer feel helpless. You will begin to view criticism as the evidence that you are getting something done instead of evidence that you are doing something wrong.

Learn from this experience. You will be less likely to permit perceptions to hold you hostage in the future.

How have you refused to be held hostage by perceptions in your work environment?

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