And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. – Luke 23:3
There has been debate as to whether Jesus managed people’s perceptions. Some would say in reference to the above scripture that He did not, while others would say that He did perceive the thoughts of others and managed their perceptions accordingly. The million dollar question is: What responsibility as leaders do we have regarding perception management?
Whether we are leaders in the workplace or in a particular ministry in the church, people have perceptions of us ranging from our leadership style to our personality style and everything in between. In our own minds we may think those perceptions are fact or fiction, however we must understand those specific perceptions are someone’s reality of us.
Jesus actually did manage perceptions to an extent. His purpose was to portray Himself as the Son of God and through His acts, sermons, lifestyle, etc. Jesus was able to create and manage His position in the Trinity and how God the father sent Him on a particular mission to save the sinner. However we must understand there were certain times where Jesus did not manage the perceptions of others. One could say in Luke 23 when Pilate asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews”, Jesus’ reply rendered a simple response that implied He would not justify this statement/accusation. We as leaders must understand the proper way to administer perception management.
Every piece of feedback we receive does not always need an explicative retort. We may need to replicate the response of Jesus in today’s terms of, “You have said so” and cease further explanation. Sometimes people’s opinions or perceptions of you are influenced by others and it becomes difficult in these times to change the perception and therefore you are probably better suited to have a “thou sayest” attitude/response and understand they have formed an opinion of you which may be difficult to change.
For situations where perception management is crucial to execute, the following are strategies to ponder when managing the perceptions of others:
Preparation – think about the position/idea you want people to hold of you. What is your brand? How do you want people to think of you?
Credibility – make sure the information you gather from others about you has some level of consistency. You cannot manage multiple opinions; find the opinions/feedback that is consistently heard from multiple people. This will assist you in finding key themes of what others think about you.
Influence – find individuals who can be your promoters (the people who will proclaim the brand/perception you want to create). These are people who could also help others change their negative perceptions of you.
Security – ensure your strategy is not publicly proclaimed to various people; perception management is tricky at times when it comes to motives. You do not want people to think your strategy is not authentic and if you share this strategy with many people they may not understand your intent and may misconstrue this to be manipulation.
Flexibility – make sure your strategy is flexible as new information/feedback is given. Perception management must have some level of agility when changes happen. Be proactive in seeking regular feedback from others to continue to manage the perceptions.
In summary, you must understand when to use the “thou sayest” response or the perception management strategy when dealing with people’s opinions of you. As a leader you will experience both situations and what makes an effective leader is their ability to utilize the right responses in those particular situations.