Seeing yourself as others see you

I recently blogged about being a reflective leader and we all wonder how we are seen as leaders. But have you ever wondered how others see you? I have and I suspect most others have also. Imagine what it would be like if the first thing someone said to you was what they thought of you? Then, what would you change, if anything?


I recently had it put to the ‘test’ as part of an exercise on a residential course. This course was with 12 others, 11 of whom I had never met before, and one who I knew professionally. We had an exercise where we didn’t introduce yourself in the ‘traditional’ way – name, rank and serial number as I call it, where you say who you are, where you work and what you do.  This exercise was where you were being introduced to someone as their new boss, and what they liked, and what they were wary of you. I have to say I found this a challenging exercise, because the exercise was about giving feedback on what little you knew of the person, and the impression they made by just standing there in front of them. It was about a judgement value, and, as a nurse, we aim not to make judgements about people.

While I found I hard to do because I try not judge, it was interesting listening to the comments others made. Some were profound and some very insightful. It also reminded me of another aspect of my scholarship that there is no such thing as a neutral face. I’d always wondered how you can remain neutral and in fact by trying to be neutral you can and often present in a way which you may not intend. It may be you appear aloof, aggressive, uninterested, when you are trying not to reveal what you are thinking, or trying to appear detached. Your recipients my interpret this in different ways and usually not as you intended.

As this whole year is about becoming an effective leader, another key point came to mind in one of our sessions, led by my mentor. This can be in many ways, firstly in  our appearance or secondly, how we hold ourselves; body language is the most revealing aspect of being a person and as a leader.

Whatever you think about someone they will know, you ‘leak’ your feelings.

So back to what these insightful people thought. Well, I was both impressed and pleasantly surprised, their comments were very helpful and reassuring that I am a first a ‘people person’ and despite none of them knowing what I did, they felt I came across as knowledgeable and intelligent in my sphere of practice.


So, what if anything do I do differently as a nurse and leader?

Firstly, accept the fact that people see you in different ways. If you think positive, you will appear positive. If you are busy in your head and in your actions this will be a barrier to being approachable.

Secondly, whatever you were feeling at the time, whether about the situation, the person, or even nothing to do with work will come through, intentionally or not. Make time for the person, situation or people and put yourself in their shoes, how you would like to be received, spoken to, supported or guided and ultimately led by ‘yourself’.

Thirdly, if you’re not comfortable in your own skin, then neither will others. Leadership is about people. It’s about people giving you permission to lead and their support to you by following.

Remember, a leader without followers is someone taking a walk alone. We need to think as much about followership skills as well as leadership. Consider how you are received and seek feedback from those who follow you, or who you lead, It is your gauge to what you need to do differently. Be a braveheart and seek feedback; you may find it surprising, refreshing and reassuring.

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