Know Where You Stand – Emotional Pain and Leadership

Discovering you were closer to someone in your team than they were with you can hurt deeply. This hurts even more when you realise that others knew this before you did.

When information within informal networks of interpersonal relationships overrides formal structures, trust is broken.

Emotions run high as the true structure of relationships are revealed. You know where you stand, and how close or distant others are in relation to you.

Leaders who can’t accurately assess who is on their ‘team’ end up doubting themselves. Click To Tweet

Remember Carlos Ghosen, Chair of Nissan, Japan and Renault in France? Last year, Nissan rejected him as leader. His French counterparts didn’t back him. He was jailed in Japan, then dramatically escaped to Brazil. He had misread his colleagues and staff. He believed they continued to support the direction he was taking with the companies he led. They no longer did.

Likely, your experiences of informal networks over-riding formal structures are less dramatic. Here are some examples of everyday versions of this experience:

  • A close colleague poaches your best team member
  • A long-time colleague doesn’t let you know they have private information your CEO is quizzing you on
  • Your close friend lets you know they are having an affair with your partner
  • You realise your boss has known you are being restructured out of the organisation for weeks, but has only just told you.

As you possibly have, I have also experienced each of these instances. Each time, trust is broken and feelings run high as you reassess where others stand in relation to you.

These are the moments your world is turned upside down. You become aware of yawning gaps amongst your knowledge, your psyche and your heart. Trust is broken, or may never have been there. You have misread your relationships.

Someone has made a decision that deeply impacts your future, yet they haven’t included you in their thinking or on the decision they made.

The resulting feelings can be a tumultuous mix of anger, sorrow, hurt, pride, and shame. For leaders as well as anyone else, emotional pain takes time and care to unravel and process. A central part of the unravelling is discovering and accepting where others truly stand in relation to you on specific criteria.

Interpersonal perception matters.

Understanding where others stand in relation to you is called interpersonal perception. Interpersonal perception is a capacity to read others and the work being done. Leaders develop interpersonal perception through experience, guess work, testing, curiosity, and intuition. This type of learning is not intellectual. This learning is experiential and is a mix of insight, reflection, knowing our own values and reading others’ values through their behaviour. Accurately reading how they are perceived is a central capacity for successful leaders.

The sociometric jolt

Having people you trusted pull away is called a sociometric jolt. People you thought were companions reveal they are not.

The language to describe these experiences is dramatic:

  • Back stabbing
  • Gaslighting
  • Being thrown under a bus
  • Two-faced

You may question your judgement, and your wisdom. Others experience burnout, where they have been giving more of themselves, without the relationship mutuality they thought was there.

In any setting, knowing the criteria informal relationships are based on is crucial for leaders. Rather than the formal structures, it is the informal networks of relationships which dictate what gets done, and how.

Until a leader has built strong informal networks based on trust and inclusion, their position and acceptance in the organization is illusory. Click To Tweet

Until a leader has built strong informal networks based on trust and inclusion, their position and acceptance in the organization is merely illusory.

Certainty in the shifts of interpersonal perception creates confidence. Leaders who can’t accurately assess who is on their ‘team’ end up doubting themselves.

Read more in my book, Leadership Material, pp 91 – 92. Download my free workbook and complete practice sessions 4.1 and 4.2 to assess your own interpersonal perceptions.

If you want to develop your interpersonal perception and/or learn to read who is on your ‘team’, work with Diana.

© Diana Jones

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