Every time that we make a decision, we are comparing our various options against our internal decision ruler. Our rulers are composed of several different parts.
The first part is our values. Our values tell us who we want to be. They include adjectives like reliable, family-oriented, respectful, respected, honest, professional, goal-oriented, and successful. In workshops, I ask people to consider what they want to be remembered for and how they live those qualities in their lives.
The second part of decision rulers is how we want to be seen. It’s called impression management. We all manage how others see us in order to ensure they notice the qualities that we want to be known for. We all have different goals for how we are perceived. Some examples are intelligent, needy, victimized, badass, nurturing, and intimidating. We aren’t always conscious of this part of our decision-making process, but it’s one of the most influential parts of our decision ruler.
The third part is our priorities. Our priorities change over time and reflect what is important to us at this particular moment in time. Making money is one of my priorities at the moment, so I consider the impact of each possible course of action on my ability to make money.
Ideally, we want the three parts of our ruler to complement each other, but they don’t always. Often people who are dishonest want to be seen as honest. They manage our impression of them with deceptions. This sort of behavior is not the hallmark of exceptional leadership.
Pretending to have the qualities of a great leader is a disaster waiting to happen on several fronts. First, it’s hard to manage an impression if there is no basis of fact for it. For example, I might want to appear knowledgeable about leadership. However, if I don’t put in the work and do the research, I am just going to sound like an idiot spouting platitudes. Dishonest impression management eventually comes to light, and the people who have been misled are usually hopping mad.
Second, we use a lot of emotional pennies when we try to be what we are not. It’s a stressful way to live and an inauthentic way to live a life. We are our best selves when we are true to ourselves, our values, and our priorities.
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