A couple weeks ago I read a book about leadership. (No, it’s not the one in the picture.) It included some on-line content that involved a survey. The idea was to take the survey and evaluate your ‘style’ and approach to leadership, highlight your strengths and your weaknesses. Part two of the big idea was to get people who work with you to also take the survey and have them answer the same questions to give their take on their perception of my ‘style’, approach and status of my leadership.
After a few days I could download a pdf that showed me how I scored myself and on the other side of the page, how those who know me and work with me and live with me, scored me.
I expected to see a few numbers slightly different but what I ended up with was a radically different score. “Score” is actually not the right word, more of a mark on a scale of 1 to 40 to show whether a particular trait was in little evidence or in abundant evidence. The results revealed, among other things, that the way I see myself, the way I perceive my interactions and approach are drastically different than the way I’m perceived by those around me. Where I think of myself as “innovative”, “disturbing” even sometimes a little “radical” the majority of respondents see me more as a “nurturer”, “warm hug on a cold day”, and even cardigan sweater kind of safe.
This freaks me out. Not that I don’t like nurturers or even being perceived as one. What freaks me out is the apparently incredible gap between the way I see myself and the way I’m experienced by others. I’m Walter Mitty when it comes to leadership. I’ve always been a little Walter but usually just after seeing a movie or finishing a book and not about the day to day way I see myself in the work that I do.
It reminds me of the near move that my family made in my teen years. I saw relocating to a new town and a new school as a potential means for breaking out of the role I’d been given to play at my old school with my old friends, and be the person I felt I was on the inside.
I’ve been under the impression that “what you see is what you get” with me but now I’m not even sure about what I or others actually see. What does it mean to be functioning and working hard at what you do, seeing yourself in a particular way and then finding out that you’re the only person who thinks that that is who you are?