The aspect of “managing perceptions in human interaction” was something that I never really thought of, in the past, as a key attribute to good leadership. This changed when I listened to a discourse by Swami Sukabodhananda. His discourses are of a specialized form in that they are mostly related to management, leadership and human interactions.
SS, as I’ll refer to him henceforth, is very widely traveled and has interacted with management institutions worldwide in various forms. Uncle N of mine introduced me to a lecture of his – on Stress Management, I think, about 10 years ago.
In one of the chapters on the CD, he talks about an incident that occurred during a regular classroom session he had with management folks from around the world. He had noticed that a lady in the back row looked tired and was finding it difficult to concentrate. He requested her to move up to occupy one of the empty front seats, and continued with his lecture.
He noticed that the woman seemed very agitated since the earlier event, so after a while, he asked her if everything was OK. The woman was honest enough and said she was upset – she believed that the Swamiji (as many of his admirers/followers/disciples call him) had insulted her by picking her out in front of everyone else, and making her come up to the front.
Right after she said this, the Swamiji asked if everyone in the room felt the same way as regards to the woman’s reaction. A gentleman, who was seated on the other far side of the room raised his hand and said he would have felt privileged had he been picked instead to come up and occupy the front row. He hadn’t noticed the woman being distracted and that she was therefore being called up to the front. He had felt that the Swamiji saw something in the person to “promote” her over the others in the room – to be seated right up front, in the thick of action!
Look at what perception does – it was a simple gesture by the speaker to encourage one of the distracted folk to be more involved, but two different individuals perceived the same event at two extremes. One looked at it as a reward, while the other deemed it a punishment. Every word uttered, or every action performed, will look different when taken out of context or seen in a different light.
An oft-repeated line conveys the same message – no two fingers of our hand are the same; which meant to say no two individuals are alike. This story goes beyond that – individuals react differently to the same event; so the onus is on the leader to convey the message in a form that ensures reception in the right spirit. The expectations are changing: leadership before was about conveying the right message; leadership now is to not just convey the right message but also ensure it is received right.
Keep in mind – the T and the I don’t need crossing or dotting when written as capital letters!
Image Credit: Pedrosimoes
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