Seeing Yourself as Others See You

By | August 11, 2020

[August 11, 2020]  Leaders with authority should be aware of the image they project by what they do and say.  Even the most beautiful women look into mirrors to see how they appear to others and take action to improve what they see in the glass.  Similarly, leaders should be looking into the mirror of their minds to imagine how they appear to others.  Seeing yourself as others see you is a skill not to be taken lightly.

Such imaginative introspection and empathy are necessary for visualizing how they look to others.  And, they should work on improving what they see.  This includes physical appearance, manner and bearing, demeanor, and competence.  It also involves the realization in advance of what they do and of the orders they issue will be viewed by others.1,2

In an old notebook of mine from days as an Infantry Company Commander, I found an interesting entry that I had made about a field training exercise.  My first trip to the field with 179 of my men was mostly uneventful, but what I said and did make an impression upon those Soldiers.

At dinner time the first night, my radio operator (who is always near me in case I received a radio call) brought me my meal on a ceramic plate and coffee in a porcelain mug.  A metal fork, spoon, and knife from the mess hall were there for me also.  At the time, Soldiers were lining up to get their food at the mess tentage that was set-up as the feeding area.   I declined the use of my meal this way.

My radio operator was surprised when I told him that I would only eat after every Soldier was fed.  Furthermore, I would only take my meal in the standard-issue mess kit and coffee in my canteen cup.  As their Commander, I would not need to stand in line like other Soldiers, but I would otherwise take no special privileges.

I later learned that the men of my Infantry company gained considerable respect for me that evening.  It was a glimpse into how my Soldiers saw me as their Commander.

A few comments:

  1. If a leader tries to impress others with phony grandstand plays, that is the impression you will create.
  2. There is no substitute for constant alertness to consider how you look to others.
  3. While there is reasonableness in the use of rank and position, there are times it can lead to abuse, as I have witnessed innumerable times.
  4. A leader cannot adequately supervise and lead if they are standing in line for chow or digging their own foxholes. The men know this.  My experienced First Sergeant told my men that “We take care of the ‘old man’ and he will take care of us.”

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  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/leaders-seeing-things/
  2. https://hbr.org/2011/09/to-see-yourself-as-others-see.html
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Seeing Yourself as Others See You

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Loved your article today. More like this would be helpful. I will be picky a bit here Gen. Satterfield and note that while No. 4 is a good point, it appears out of place. I would humbly suggest that you write a separate article on the subject. Others have suggested the same but I would like to read more about it. The question I would like answered is WHERE do you draw the line between “standing in line for chow” (wasting leader time) and doing those leadership responsibilities required of you?

    1. Jerome Smith

      Good way to point this out Dennis and I agree with you and the others who would like to see more on the topic. Humble leaders subject themselves to the same dangers and risks that those that work for them are exposed. But, is there a point where a line must be drawn?

    2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Well written, Dennis. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. JT Patterson

    Another spot-on blog post from Gen. Satterfield.

  3. Max Foster

    All, let’s not overlook the comments Gen. Satterfield made at the end of the article. These are very special. They are the core of what good leaders do, and the anti-thesis of what they do not do. I know that these are not necessarily easy to understand but try anyway. This is true wisdom. Thank you Gen. Satterfield. Well done with this article.

    1. Kenny Foster

      His #4 is particularly interesting. Leaders should not be perceived as “being superior” to everyone else or having undeserved “privileges” but they cannot also be expected to have their time wasted like ‘standing in line for chow’. More of this would be a good topic for Gen. Satterfield to address for us all.

      1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

        Kenny, yes, a possible future topic I would like to read about.

      2. Linux Man

        Well said Kenny. I agree that No. 4 stood out among the rest and was a point that I was not expecting to read. This is certainly an idea that should be explored more here in https://www.theleadermaker.com.

  4. Wendy Holmes

    “… it was a glimpse into how my Soldiers saw me as their Commander.” Loved your story. Impressive! Now I see why you made the rank of General when so many tap out at much lower ranks. I know, in today’s society, that humility plays a big part of being a great leader. Practicing it requires the right place and time … and when to be humble.

    1. Stacey Borden

      Yes, when to be humble yet also get the mission accomplished as well.

    2. Fred Weber

      Good point Wendy. I agree with you that being humble, esp. in Western nations, is necessary. I would go further and say that it is key to a successful leadership position. It takes practice practice practice !!!

        1. Yusaf from Texas

          Thanks Tracey, I read the article and it was informative. ?

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