One of my favorite individuals to listen to on the radio when I am driving around is a conservative talk radio host by the name of Dennis Prager. Even if you do not agree with his political persuasion, you have to respect his emphasis on, and value of, clarity over agreement.
This resonates more and more with me the older that I get. There was a time when an argument must lead to agreement, surrender, or acquiescence by my opponent. These days, I am much more willing to accept the possibility of disagreeing agreeably. I just need to ensure that there is clarity and that I am both understanding others and being understood.
All of that aside, I really would like to deal with the issue of clarity and perception. Specifically, it is important to have clarity around our self-perception when we are leaders.
Many leaders have great insight into their own personalities, skills, talents, and abilities. They also have significant insights into their motivations. They also have insights into their shortcomings in those areas that are the most impactful in a leadership role. And many leaders have significant flaws in the mirror glass when it comes to self-perception.
How often do you come across that person in the office who thinks they have a great sense of humor? They tell jokes that are either inappropriate or just fall completely flat when they deliver the punchline. They simply lack clarity around their own sense of humor.
Athletic coaches will tell you that you cannot coach “speed.” You can make an athlete “faster” if they have some basic speed abilities. But, you cannot take an athlete that is fundamentally slow and make them fast. You can improve their 40-yard dash times. But you can’t take an athlete that runs a six-second 40 and make them into a 4.3 speedster. Such is the case with clarity of self-perception. A leader must show an openness to seeing themselves clearly if they are going to make significant strides in this area.
So, what do I do about this?
One thing that can help is the use of objective or independent tools. One tool that comes to mind that may have real value here is the JOHARI Window Model. Time or space do not permit an exhaustive explanation of this tool. But, a summary of the JOHARI Window is described as a tool that involves input provided by the leader as well as input provided by others.
To utilize the JOHARI Window, a leader picks a number of adjectives from a list, choosing ones they believe describes them. The leader’s followers or peer leaders then get the same list, and each picks an equal number of adjectives that describe the leader. The adjectives from the leader’s list are then compared to the lists from the others. They are then inserted into a two-by-two grid of four cells according to the following guidelines.
Window area 1 contains the adjectives that are known to the person and also known by the others who participated in the exercise. Window area 2 contains is what is known about a person by others in the group, but is unknown by the person him/herself. Window area 3 is what is known to ourselves but kept hidden from, and therefore unknown, to others. And window area 4 contains the adjectives that describe the leader and that is unknown to the person him/herself and also unknown to others in the group.
Many will then take the window model and adjust the relative sizes of each quadrant of the model to show the quantity of adjectives in each quadrant. This step leads to the greatest clarity. The larger the “Open” quadrant, the more clarity a leader would have because their self-perception would be acknowledged and actually validated by the others who participated in the exercise. The two least desirable patterns would be to have a relatively big blind spot area or a big unknown area.
How’s that for clarity?
What is the Leadership Lesson?
The theory goes like this. The more a leader solicits feedback from others—such as instituting an internal or external leadership survey or a personal 360-degree feedback—the more they would really have clarity in their self-perception. And the more clarity that they have about their leadership abilities, the more they would be able to address their strengths and weaknesses. And the more their followers would really understand them and be drawn to them as leaders. And more importantly, the more they would be able to communicate with clarity to the other leaders that they are seeking to develop and mentor.
And that, my friend, is what is really driving me these days. You don’t have to agree with me. But, am I at least making a statement with clarity?