Leadership Projection: Is It Just a Mere Image?
Projection is a defense mechanism where we take a part of us that we don’t like (i.e. our arrogant-self, selfish-self, or our untrusting-self, etc.) and project it onto someone else.
For example if we look at someone and say ” What an arrogant ass” while there may be a hint of truth in that statement, the real truth is that we have an arrogant part of ourselves. The fact that we don’t like it and so we try to rid ourselves of the feeling by projecting or our arrogance on someone else.
It maybe shocking to you to become conscious of the fact that other people mirror our not so great parts back to us and we can see ourselves or at least the parts of ourselves that we are not proud of. If we fail to pay attention to the feedback we are getting, we may very well judge someone incorrectly.
As a leader, it is especially important to make sure you do not get caught up in the trap of projection. Why?
Because as a leader it is our job to help our people see the obstacles that our getting in the way of their success. We are not responsible for removing them … we are responsible to them to help them see the things they are doing that are preventing them from moving forward. If we are projecting onto them an attribute that is more about us then them, we are being negligible as a leader.
Now while all of this can be viewed as quite negative … there is actually good news about projection
The good news about projection is 2-fold:
- If we trust the idea that people are just mirrors for us, we have the opportunity to see ourselves everywhere. We can be alerted to the fact that we do in fact have an arrogant part of ourselves and that we need to understand where that arrogance comes from. Which by the way, is almost always a feeling of inadequacy or of not being enough which tie directly into how we feel about ourselves, our self-esteem and self-worth. An incredible resource for truly understanding those parts and working through them is Nathaniel Branden’s work entitled, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. It is by far the best book I have read on the matter of self-esteem.
- Projection works the same way when it comes to our positive traits! If I asked you to tell me who you thought was an extraordinary leader and why. And then asked you to list six characteristics they had/have that made them extraordinary (could be Winston Churchill or your high-school soccer coach) you would see that those characteristics are mirror images of you! Yes, the good characteristics that you see in others are characteristics that you have as well. The question is do you believe it and if so … are you bringing those characteristics to light and embracing them. This will definitely add to your sense of self-worth and self-esteem because you will be getting insight into what makes you extraordinary as well.
So yes, what we project on others may just a be a mere image of us that we ignore … or it just might be a mirror image showing you the path to growth or a a path to your extraordinary-ness!
Either way … it is definitely something to reflect on.