How to Bridge the Gap Between Intention and Perception

Leaders fail because they don’t see themselves as others see them.

Disconnection between internal intention and external perception limits leaders.


  1. You make space for others to thrive. Others see you as passive.
  2. You make decisions. Others see you as controlling.
  3. You show compassion. Others see weakness.
  4. You exhibit energy. Others see pushy.

Effective leaders build alignment between internal intention and external perception. 

You cannot effectively influence others when you see yourself one way and others see you another.

Mark Goulston lists the 10 most common areas of dissonance he has seen.

  1. Shrewd – Sly.
  2. Confident – Arrogant.
  3. Humorous – Inappropriate.
  4. Energetic – Hyper.
  5. Holding strong opinions – Opinionated.
  6. Passionate – Impulsive.
  7. Strong – Rigid.
  8. Detail oriented – Nitpicking.
  9. Quiet – Passive or Indecisive.
  10. Sensitive – Needy.

Bridge the gap:

The greater the gap between internal intention and external perception, the higher your stress, frustration, and ineffectiveness.

To explain the gap leaders resort to blaming and explaining. “They don’t get me.”

Self-awareness is never achieved by pushing others away.

Self-awareness requires insight from others.

Self-awareness project:

Give three people a list of leadership weaknesses. Ask them to rank the top three weaknesses others might see in you. They should choose the top three even if you aren’t ‘that bad’ in those areas.

The question is, “Others might see me as … .”

  1. Arrogant.
  2. Hyper.
  3. Needy.
  4. Overly opinionated.
  5. Impulsive.
  6. Rigid.
  7. Nitpicking.
  8. Passive.
  9. Indecisive.
  10. Demanding.
  11. Hostile.
  12. Stuffy.
  13. Oversensitive.
  14. Sly.
  15. Untrustworthy.
  16. Melodramatic.
  17. Rude.
  18. Shy.
  19. Pessimistic.
  20. Abrupt.
  21. Excessively perky.
  22. Closed minded.

The above list is from, “Just Listen,” by Mark Goulston.


Look for patterns. Take action when arrogance shows up on two or three lists, for example.

Take action:

Ask each person to help you bridge the gap between intention with perception.

  1. What two things could I do to appear confident rather than arrogant?
  2. What could I stop doing that makes me seem arrogant?

How might leaders bridge the gap between internal intention and external perception?