“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
~ Aldous Huxley (writer / philosopher / sociological observer)
In a few, simple words, this quote speaks to the multiple factors and influences constantly at work shaping an individual’s persona in the world and determining a leader’s ripple effect.
It’s also a powerful reminder to ensure that which is “known” about us is accurate and that which is “unknown” is identified, examined and shared … lest we leave too much open to “perception” that we no longer control our own personal brand or reputation.
KNOWN: To be known for who you are at your core requires three things … well, more than three, but let’s start with this: Authenticity to share your experiences, thoughts, fears, and aspirations, and to communicate who you are and who you are not. Vulnerability to be who we are and speak with honesty even when that may feel uncomfortable or risky. Courage to face into the risk we may believe accompanies being authentic and fully expressed, instead of closing down or drifting into a “safer place” than being real.
UNKNOWN: Human beings tend to fill in the blanks. We seek a complete picture of the world around us. When we lack experience, knowledge or candid information about someone or something, we try to connect the dots so the story we have about ourselves, or a person or an event hangs together.
There are elements within each of us that we prefer are not on display – we fear they may limit our opportunities or create a negative consequence. So we withhold our stories, experiences, perspectives, questions and opinions. Over time, this withholding creates a blank space (unknowns) on our canvas, causing others to generate questions or assumptions about us.
PERCEPTION: Most of us know that it’s essential to our success to understand others’ perceptions of us. We know that perception becomes a reality that can make or break our ability to impact our world and can be quite difficult to reshape.
Your ripple effect expands and contracts, gains velocity or slows to a creep based, in part, on how you are perceived. And whether your effect is positive, negative or neutral, there are always opportunities to enhance it and to evolve your leadership.
The combination of your Knowns, Unknowns and Perceptions shape your personal brand and influence the range and power of your leadership ripple effect. You can start with the below “Practices” to heighten your own awareness of how these occur for you or call me to explore how an executive coaching engagement might help maximize your leadership. Developing self-awareness is critical to unlocking potential. Start gaining access to yours today.
PRACTICES – Take on at least one practice a day for the next week and jot down any observations or insights that come to you. If you don’t already have a personal development journal, now might be a good time to start one.
1) Under what circumstances and with whom are you authentic and vulnerable? How intentional are you about making yourself known? Where do you need to summon courage to create a more authentic dialogue or relationship?
2) Pay attention to what you are withholding about yourself. What blank spaces are you creating? What perceptions will these blank spaces create over time for your stakeholders?
3) What patterns do you see in your notes from the week that, if you concentrated your effort and intention, you would refine your leadership?