The Organizational Development Muse

Dr. Mark L. Vincent's Blog

Perception Distortion: depth perception for leaders

Posted by Mark L. Vincent on Aug 30, 2009 9:39:00 AM

My wife Lorie and I are often told that we have many things going on. Apparently we are perceived as busy people. That does not match our self perception. Lorie’s long battle with cancer has robbed us of so much of our time and diminished so many plans and forced us into such long waiting periods, that any healthy periods become crammed with buying groceries, catching up on yard work, staying abreast of our professions and paying our bills. We appear busy around others simply because so much time is given to forced stases. It appears everyone is at least partially right!

Perceptions are so easily misconstrued or only partially developed. A virtuous leader must understand this and commit to long and patient communication if she or he wants common and useful perceptions to form. Too many persons in leadership roles decide instead to embrace the ease of manipulating the half-formed reactions of people to their own, selfish ends.

For instance, I could pretend I am as busy as people think I am as a way to try to feel better about managing a long-term disease. Or my wife and I could take a different approach and play to the sympathy of others. But a more virtuous path is to pursue patient endurance, a quality that connects to the power of the human spirit when it makes peace with that which is Sovereign. Not only must we practice it when facing the disease, we must practice it in conversing with others who only see a flurry of activity when we emerge in public.

When the leader chooses virtue in managing perceptions, then both parties benefit–the leader and those who are watching. All then experience fewer distortion in their perceptions, and common ground becomes the basis from which to do good work.

One might also think about it in an economic sense. I might feel like I am wasting time trying to reach common understanding. But it also wastes time to willfully misunderstand one another and then have to clean up the mess. By taking time to understand and explain, I am keeping my relationships well-oiled. When I refuse to take the time, however, cleaning up relationship messes takes longer and often can never be fully repaired.

-mark l vincent

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Topics: leiomyosarcoma, lorie vincent, virtuous leader

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