Perception is reality: how to control how you’re seen as a leader

If you’re going to achieve success as a leader, you need to understand that perception is reality. It doesn’t matter who you think you are, or who you are underneath: the way people perceive you is, to all intents and purposes, who you are.

So, how can you control how your team perceives you?

Get comfortable with empty space

A key indicator of someone not in control is that they feel the need to fill any break in conversation with noise or actions. Whether it’s mumbling, sighing or even moving your hands too much, by trying to fill the gap you’ll come across as uncertain.

Instead, give yourself time to think and come up with an ordered response. Even if you’re nervous, you won’t appear so.

Control your body

Body language is vital when it comes to being perceived as a leader. It’s not about going over the top, but it is about demonstrating assertiveness and confidence. Ensure you hold your head up and always make eye contact with people.

And, as we’ve already touched on, don’t do anything superfluous like twirling your pen or tapping desks. Get very comfortable with being still. And if you need to practise in private, that’s OK.

Walk with purpose – don’t just bimble about! Even if you are just “walking the floor”, make a definite move from team to team.

Work to connect with people

True leaders know how to make connections with everyone in their organisation, and you must do the same. Don’t try to be best friends with everyone – this tends to give an impression of neediness – but ensure you’re accessible.

It’s also vital to ensure you communicate clearly and effectively. Be open and honest with your employees about what you want, and always be available to answer questions.

Don’t go on a power trip

Some people get promoted and immediately start to exert their power by changing things around the office: even things that didn’t need changing.

There’s a difference between altering things to improve the business and making changes simply because you feel like you should.

This approach has the reverse effect: if you try too hard to show that you’re in charge, you’ll simply come across as insecure. And, to be fair, it’s possible you are.

Remember, the best leaders don’t feel the need to show off their authority, they naturally exude it.

Walk your talk

Don’t fall into the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ trap. If you expect something of your employees, you’d better be prepared to ask the same thing of yourself.

Whether that’s staying late to complete a busy project, knuckling down during the day or simply getting into work half an hour early, remember: it’s what the leader does that sets the work culture, not what they say.

If you need help or advice on changing your team’s perception, contact us at St Andrew’s Highway today.