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Five Minutes to Thrive: Why Should Leaders Care What Others Think About Them?



Your leadership philosophy is an important part of your occupational identity, which is a collection of stories that you tell yourself and others about what it means to be you as a worker. These stories often include memorable experiences, both positive & negative, which have influenced your development. However, the stories we tell about ourselves are less meaningful to others than the behaviors they see. Psychologist Robert Hogan said, "The ‘you’ that you know is hardly worth knowing because you made it up" (i.e. our identities are merely collections of largely made-up stories, loosely tied to reality). Impactful leaders focus on their reputations, which include behaviors that are observable by others, and which are better predictors of their future performance than identity.

Don’t misunderstand, positive self-appraisals are great things to have, but they don’t guarantee you second dates, or home mortgages. For those, you need excellent social and financial capital. When you step into a new job, your boss and subordinates may care about what’s written on past EPRs/OPRs, but they’ll certainly care about your reputation...particularly if it’s a bad one. Leaders care about reputation because it affects individual & team performance, job satisfaction, and organizational tenure. Critical feedback is one way that leaders receive valuable information about their reputations and enhance their own and others’ job performance. Below are some suggestions regarding feedback:

Ask for it. Feedback is usually better when it’s solicited, rather than when given out of necessity

Don’t squander it. Only ask for feedback if you really want it, not because it seems like something "a good leader would do". Treat critical feedback like gold when you receive it

Be open to it. It’s up to you whether you accept the feedback you receive. If you reject it, be thoughtful about why. Others’ willingness to give you feedback in the future may depend on it

Be specific. Consider the information you’re after, and who is best qualified to provide it. Instead of asking, "How do you think I’m doing as a leader?", try "Would you be willing to give me feedback about my composure during today’s staff meeting?"

Timing is important. Pause, and clarify that what you are really seeking is critical feedback, not merely reassurance. Give others time to prepare thoughtful feedback. It will be worth the wait

Consider multiple sources. Subordinates, peers, and bosses may have helpful insights, but don’t discount non-work sources. Our reputations are more consistent across settings than we think.

For questions, contact Dr. Ashley Kilgore (ashley.c.kilgore.mil@mail.mil) or the Minot Mental Health Clinic at 701-723-5527


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