Two weeks ago, I wrote a very controversial article boldly titled: “Jesus was the first Leadership coach”. When I was inspired to write this article, my intention was to think about what I liked about Jesus’ Leadership Style and compare his characteristics to Modern-day Leadership. Specifically, the Leadership traits that I admired.
It was astounding at the amount of traffic, comments, views, shares and likes, I had received from one article. So, I got to thinking, how and why my initial intention of writing this article on “Servant Leadership” had gone viral. Not only had it gone viral but how many different Perceptions people had upon reading it.
Let me explain, we all have our certain lenses (think of it like wearing glasses) that allow us to process information that is coming at us from our environment. We couldn’t possibly process that much information there’s like 4 billion bits of information, so what we tend to do is: Delete, Distort and Generalise, so its becomes easily digestible chunks so we can physically function. If we had to process all the information at once, it would leave us paralysed to do anything else. This serves us best when deciding whether the environment we’re in is safe or not.
I had the opportunity to read everyone’s comments and noticed that it didn’t matter where in the world people lived, what nationalities and occupations and levels of seniority, the Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations were evident throughout. I found it surprising that even some “Coaches” or those in the “Leadership” space where I would expect they would have had a “Growth Mindset” actually distorted the message of my article completely.
I even had a few people go out of their way by sending me an insulting email me telling me I had a “Shallow World-View” and “Stop being a game changer!” When I looked at their LinkedIn Profiles to see by what authority they had to pass judgement, I had to do a double take to compare their private message to me and their profile and how in-congruent they’re personas really were. For me, any credibility they think they may have established was lost immediately by their uncalled for insults. Definitely not letting that kind of Leadership Coach near my Career or Business. Which goes to show that not all Leaders are created equal either. But hey, that’s just me, I’m more into Authentic Leadership, those that walk the walk, rather than Narcissistic Ego Stroking Trolls.
Let’s explore the concepts of Deletion, Distortion and Generalisations and how it can impact your Leadership Style and impact you and your teams overall success.
I’ll use the eye glasses analogy. Say you receive a letter from your local optometrist inviting you for your 2-yearly eye sight checkup. You think, I’m fine I don’t notice anything wrong with my eye-sight, and yet you go for your checkup, because you’re health is important to you. Throughout the course of the consultation the optometrist measures you level of acuity by getting you to see letters through different lenses on his optical machine. At the end of it, he matches you up with a new prescription. You walk out of the optometrist with a new pair of lenses. Suddenly, what you initially thought was a good view of the world, you’ve just realized that now you have a better focus. You walk out looking at the world, the same world you’ve always known through different lenses, you see things you haven’t noticed before, the sharpness, the colours, the details of the pictures around you is truly amazing. You didn’t even realise up until that point, that your vision was not as good as you had once thought. You got adjusted, complacent and comfy. Now you’re ready and energized to take on the world around you with this new focus. Congratulations, you’ve just expanded your mind-set.
In Leadership, this analogy of the Eye checkup rings true. You follow through the same processes, and strategies because they’ve worked for you in the past. Perhaps you even got awards, recognition, merits and promotions as a result of your previous efforts so you think, I’m awesome! Sometimes, it can be a false sense of awesome and this is where the Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations rear their ugly heads. I’ll demonstrate some examples from my Jesus’ article.
Many people used Deletion lens when reading my article. Deletion is defined by focusing on certain bits of information and ignoring the rest: such as looking at title, “ Jesus was the first Leadership Coach”. People commented about Jesus and Leadership in positive and negative ways, some felt Jesus was a mentor and not a coach, some couldn’t get past the fact that I said Jesus was the “first” leader. Then someone couldn’t get past the photo thinking Jesus was too Anglo Celtic looking and preferred a darker version.
Characteristics of Deletions:
– Majority of People liked the article purely from a Religious Perspective.
– Others enjoyed the article due to fresh approach at looking at Leadership Style in a unique storytelling and personal way. <Hint: My initial intention and purpose>
– Others found the article offensive to them either because they felt that my article was insulting Jesus, insulting their religious views whether they were catholic or another religious belief, and couldn’t look at the article with a Growth-Mindset.
– Others were atheists/agnostics and didn’t enjoy leadership to be associated with any religious icons aka Jesus.
– Others purely didn’t resonate with the “Servant Leadership Style” approach when it came to Leadership and felt he was too passive to be ever considered a leader in their eyes.
Distortion is defined as interpreting something and actually adding your own meaning to what you’ve read, seen or heard. Or creating assumptions because you don’t have all the information in front of you to decide from what angle the person is coming from.
Characteristics of Distortions:
– Some people thought I was making Catholicism a greater religion above all others.
– Some people got offended because they were coming at it from a historical perspective and felt that my title went against their beliefs that there were others before Jesus that they considered were the first leaders so from a Factual perspective they strongly disagreed with my article.
– Some felt that I was trying to convert them or put my judgement onto them, and suggested I change the title to “Jesus was My first Leadership Coach.”
Generalisation is creating an overall assumption, assessment or judgement about something or someone, without seeking all the facts, eg. throwing all your eggs into one basket regardless, some examples include:
– Some people took it upon themselves to make sweeping statements that my article should not be part of a business social media platform as it was based on “religious views”. (Wonder if they read the article or just saw the picture and heading? Therefore, case in point!)
– Some people made generalized assumption about me personally such as, I had “Too Shallow World-View”, they don’t even know me as a person, never spoke to me, interacted with me and yet were making this assumption on what? My article, my LinkedIn Profile, how I look, my age, my race, my gender, my educational background? Perhaps I reminded them of a ex-lover and triggered something…who knows!
The reality of my article was simple and straight forward, I was purely looking at Jesus’ Servant Leadership Style and thinking about all the Leadership styles I’ve worked with over the years and how I’ve chosen to Model a certain type of Excellence based on “Servant Leadership”. My article was not about Religion or Politics or imposing my views on how people should live their lives. But it goes to demonstrate even those in Leadership Roles how our views of the information in front of us can derail our thinking and influence our reactions, actions and ultimately our behaviours.
Take home message, when in a Leadership Role it is important to understand that we all have the capacity to Delete, Distort and Generalise information around us regardless of our Race, Gender, Sexuality, Religious Beliefs, Educational Background, years of work experience, past life experiences, Cultural Beliefs and Political views. As a Leader, we must be self-aware of these limitations and not jump to conclusions and react or respond in ways that will derail our Leadership capabilities but also derail and unhinge our teams, our clients’ and our ultimately Organsations.
This is where we must approach people and situations with a “Growth Mind-set”. With a sense of curiosity. This means looking beyond what we know to be true “our truth”, beyond our “core beliefs” and set of “personal values” to understand the other person’s perception of the problem. If we take every lens we look through and put it in front of our eyes, how foggy does our view of the world become? To get a clearer focus, Self-awareness is the first step.
The second step is pushing past our lenses. Yes! it means getting out of our Comfort Zone, to see other perspectives, other alternatives, other ways of thinking. Even if you disagree, by being challenged on what you perceive as your reality and the way it should be, can be a blessing. I cannot stress how important that is to diversify your thinking. The more I do this, the more I grow as an individual, the more of an agile mind-set I have and I stress less about the small stuff. It not only helps me but also the teams in which I Lead and the Clients in which I serve.
If you are working with Clients’ and Organisations, this mind-set is imperative to understanding a Client’s needs and how to foster a collaborative relationship to provide alternative solutions. If you have a “one size fits all mentality” or go out of your way to belittle your clients’ views of their world because of your “Ego”, I highly doubt you will be successful in the long term. Or at least, I won’t be investing my hard earned cash on your services.
If you’re getting upset over a simple blog on LinkedIn and are quick to react. Is this how you react with your team, your clients within your business when your perception of the world is challenged? How is it impacting overall? If you find this article and my Pragmatic approach to Leadership offensive, perhaps its time for you to re-evaluate what lenses you’re looking through and whether you need to give them a bit of a spray and wipe.
Your Turn! How has your Filters: Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation affected your Leadership Style or perhaps you’ve been at the receiving end of someone else’s? Please share your experiences or if you enjoyed this article’s take on “Perception” please like and share! Spread the Love of Authentic Leadership!! Be a Leader for Life!