Leadership and the Danger of False Perceptions

  • 3

Leadership and the Danger of False Perceptions

Tags : 

One of the most difficult aspects of working with others might be when their perception of a situation is completely different from the popular opinion of reality. In leadership roles, this can be career stalling and occasionally career ending.

Visionary employee thinking of development

Having a formal leadership role in an organization can be a very tough spot. Of course, many people desire and work very hard to achieve the level of excellence required to not only obtain the formal role, but also to demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities.

Few people would argue that confidence is a necessary leadership competency but in some cases confidence can go too far. Has your confidence ever limited your ability to lead? How do you know?

False Perceptions

Leaders can and often do develop blind spots, sometimes to the extent that they fail to see anything but what they believe. After all, their experience is vast and they are certain of their choices, decision making skills, and even the self-assessment of their performance.

This is where the trouble begins, but often not where it ends. Leaders who are so locked in and determined (confident) of a situation or circumstance that they fail to see options or consider alternative directions sometimes make the worst decisions. Let’s face it sometimes our decisions or recommendations just don’t align with the popular opinion and that can make us either a hero, or as some might suggest a zero. 

The biggest problem with all of this is when you believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong. Or worse, you ask some of your friends or direct reports and they tell you what you want to hear, but not what the truth is.

Warning Signs

Every situation is different. Different types of businesses, different people or issues, and different places in time can all affect the most probable outcomes of any situation, but how do you know if you have some false perception issues?

Consider some of these warning signs:

  1. You feel overlooked when new challenges or opportunities are presented and you are not selected for the role or consulted in the matter.
  2. You’ve received feedback that during high stress situations you are unapproachable.
  3. When discussing strategic direction you often feel two steps ahead and are very frustrated with others slowing the progress.
  4. Team members don’t share information when they should. You often only learn of an issue when it is near disaster.
  5. You select employees for tough assignments based on those who are perceived as easy to get along with or those who will go with the flow.

Before you quickly suggest that none of this fits you, I urge you to think through this carefully. These warning signs are often discovered near the root of blind-spot problems and it only takes one to qualify.


Leaders often face challenges of false perceptions and self-deception. Through my business practice I have frequently discovered these issues and sometimes I’m called upon to help coach leaders to overcome these challenges. The toughest part is typically getting the person or persons involved to actually believe there is an issue.

Considering this, taking the first step towards a solution exists when those involved are willing to face the problems.

In 2010, I was fortunate that some of my work in this area was published in the book, The 2010 Pfeiffer Annual : Training (pages 97-106), and is available for purchase on-line. If you are concerned about false perceptions and self-deception or if you are charged with helping someone through these experiences this resource provides a great tool to get started.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

Print Friendly, PDF & Email



November 29, 2016at 8:50 am

Can you reduce this message into 1 point to take away? …to learn?

    Dennis Gilbert

    November 29, 2016at 9:37 am

    Yes, listen more carefully to those around you. Leaders sometimes allow their confidence to overshadow the reality of what is happening around them. (In this case listening means, hearing, seeing, feeling, observing, etc.)


      November 29, 2016at 10:22 am

      Excellent! Thank You!

Search This Website

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog (Filter) Categories

Follow me on Twitter

Assessment Services and Tools

Strategic, Competency, or Needs Assessments, DiSC Assessments, 360 Feedback, and more. Learn more