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We all have ideas about how we are perceived by others. Sometimes we are right and sometimes, we are very wrong. Unfortunately none of us can actually see ourselves as others do.

Good business leaders should have a clear understanding of how their team members perceive them. That's not to imply its necessary to worry about winning a popularity test, but rather setting an example for the team by conveying a strong and admirable character.

This recent TEDx talk by psychologist Fred Kiel touches on the concept of employee perception of the leader. This is something CEOs should have a sense of. In studying the connection between CEO character and business success, Kiel identifies two extreme personality types for leaders: Psychopaths and Virtuosos.

Could we be seen as a psychopath at one extreme, or a virtuoso-style leader at the other, or is our character perceived to be somewhere in the middle? Since we do not have the benefit of observing ourselves, it's absolutely critical to seek the opinion of a trusted third party. In my opinion, a mentor is a great person to help you develop self-awareness - which draws a line in the sand between one extreme and the other.

Where To Turn For The Truth?

It's not always easy, or comfortable, soliciting the opinions of others. In fact, the thought of having to undergo a very personal conversation regarding leadership style can actually cause leaders to put up walls. It takes a great deal of confidence and self-esteem to reach out to, and listen to, others. It can also be a challenge to find a suitable person to give the kind of feedback that's really meaningful.

A mentor is an ideal person to offer you an objective opinion about your leadership style and your character - they'll tell it to you as they see it, and in turn, they become someone you can trust. These are precisely the kind of individuals that you will find at Vistage.

Here are some of the top reasons why participation in a Vistage peer group is the best way to find a mentor, or a group of mentors, to help you understand your true character:

  • Participants share a common goal of achieving new levels of success through personal and professional development.
  • Vistage peers are thinking partners and individuals of like minds.
  • When you smile into the Vistage mirror, the mirror does not always smile back. It tells you what it sees:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • The mentors you will meet through Vistage will tell you the truth because they have no other agenda than to help you develop and improve.
  • Once you are in a peer group environment, "mentors" will actively engage you if they see the commitment and the potential within you.

We all need feedback in order to understand the things in ourselves that we simply cannot see. But first, we must be willing and prepared to go through a challenging process. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The question we must ask ourselves, "Are we truly open to his or her teachings when they come along, or are there still walls that need to be broken down?"

If you are ready to take a good look in the mirror, and to have all notions of superficiality and grandeur torn apart, you'll find immeasurable benefit to becoming a member of a Vistage peer group. You'll learn that mentorship is something that never really ends. We can all benefit from the strengths and teachings of others to become the virtuoso leaders we aspire to be.


Larry Hart

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