Do you understand how you occur to others?

Some leaders are blind to the impact that their leadership creates. Are you one of them? It is all about understanding how you react to others and how they react to you.

Steffan Surdek
June 27, 2022
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As a leader, understanding how you and your leadership style impacts other people is critical. You may find it meshes well with certain people, while the same style is not as effective with others.

As a coach and a consultant, an important part of my work is to push my clients further and challenge some of their ideas. Because of the nature of this work, I understand that I cannot please everyone all the time. Especially since some people resist change... a lot!

Even though I recognize that my role is to help leaders shift their mindsets, it does not give me a free license to do anything I want. This is where the idea of how I occur to others comes in.

In this article, we will explore one key concept I teach my clients, which is how others perceive you as a leader.

What it means to occur to others

I talked about something similar in my article about recognizing your leadership game. In a nutshell, your leadership game is something like cause and effect. When you do something or say something as a leader, it has an impact around you.

Do you tend to interrupt people before they finish talking to bring your own idea? Do you require approval on every single decision your team makes? These kinds of things set the tone for your team and how they see you as a leader.

Your team may decide it is not worth it to contribute their ideas or their energy to the organization. In return, you may notice that they are unmotivated and then you take it as a need for more supervision. It is a self-defeating loop!

To become a stronger leader in this context, I learned it is important to ask yourself the following questions every once in a while:

  1. How do I react to people who challenge me?
  2. How does my leadership style affect my team?
  3. Am I trying to understand others' needs?
  4. How can I change how I occur to people?

Let's dive into each of these four questions a little deeper.

1. How do I react to people who challenge me?

I find the most challenging part of my work is speaking to people who do not like my way of doing things. They will definitely tell me things I do not want to hear. But that does not automatically make everything they say true.

When you feel challenged by someone, use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself. What pushes your buttons? What types of interactions make you react? And most crucially, how do you act and speak to those people in return?

Do you return their harsh words or criticisms in kind? Do you avoid them? Do you minimize their concerns?

What can make those conversations more productive is entering them with the following mindset. First, no matter what, it is not personal. Their questions or concerns have nothing to do with you as a person. Second, all or part of their frustration may not even be directed at you.

It is also helpful to remember that although you may perceive these discussions as difficult, they are just about having a conversation with the person in front of you.

2. How does my leadership style impact my team?

Have you ever taken a long, hard look at how your leadership style may be affecting your team? Maybe your leadership game even feeds their resistance to the change you are trying to make.

Are you a very directive leader? Meaning, is it your way or the highway? If you take up too much space when bringing your ideas to the table, people may not feel you are open to theirs.

In turn, they could become compliant or disengaged, either because they fear conflict or because they perceive you as closed to hearing anything else but your own ideas.

Are your expectations clear for people? When your goals are fuzzy for your team, they may not know what to do. They may perceive your leadership as lacking vision, so they do not see why they should put additional effort into the change. They may think this is just another flavour of the month management trend that will pass.

Another part of this is that you may not be making clear requests. You may assume that by saying certain things, people will get the message. But if you do not actually ask them to change or to do certain behaviours, this can lead to miscommunications and eventually frustration.

3. Do I try to understand others' needs?

When people challenge you or your ideas, or react to you in some way, it is usually because one of their underlying needs is not being met. Sometimes people are able to vocalize their needs, but in most cases they may feel they are making themselves too vulnerable by talking about them outright.

Do you ask directly about people's needs? And when they do tell you about them, are you doing anything about it? If people perceive you as self-centred and oblivious to what they want, they will not open up to you.

You may come from a place of : "It's not really my business, as long as they do what I want them to do." That is a legitimate thought. But think about it this way: When you don't show signs of caring about them on a human level, they may think you are using them as tools to get work done.

This in turn can create disengagement. So instead, be curious about what motivates your people. If someone is having trouble being productive, ask them about what may be happening in their home lives and how it impacts their work. When you know something is wrong, you can then take the time to check in every once in a while.

4. How can I change how I occur to people?

It all starts with the first crucial step of awareness. As a leader, the first thing you should do is to discover and acknowledge your own perceptions and do something to address them.

This comes down to what I call the art of noticing. To be an effective leader, you need to start actively noticing what is happening around you and within you. You can start practicing becoming aware of your team's dynamics and people's nonverbal cues.

Next, you can observe yourself, but it is usually helpful to get people's direct feedback. Ask people what they think of your leadership, how they perceive you and why. This takes a lot of courage! Some of what they have to say may be hard to hear for you, but getting people's honest perceptions of your impact is the first step to moving forward.


Recognizing your impact on other people is one of the first things that you should work on in your leadership journey. As with any new skill, you may find this hard at first. The more you flex this muscle, the easier it will get.

Like many leaders I work with, you may be aware of some of the limitations of your current leadership style, but you do not know where to start. As a leader, you are impacting your team through your words and actions. It is crucial to start noticing this.

Leverage the insights that you get from these four questions to develop more and more self-awareness about your leadership. Rumour has it this also makes you feel more human and approachable to people!

3. Est-ce que j'essaie de comprendre les besoins des autres?

Lorsque les gens te contestent toi ou tes idées, ou qu'ils réagissent d'une manière ou d'une autre, c'est généralement parce que l'un de leurs besoins sous-jacents n'est pas satisfait. Parfois, les gens sont capables d'exprimer leurs besoins, mais dans la plupart des cas, ils peuvent avoir l'impression de se rendre trop vulnérables en en parlant ouvertement.

Poses-tu directement des questions sur les besoins des gens? Et quand ils t'en parlent, fais-tu quelque chose avec cette information? Si les gens te perçoivent comme égocentrique et inconscient de ce qu'ils veulent, ils ne s'ouvriront pas à toi.

Tu te dis peut-être : « Ce n'est pas vraiment de mes affaires, tant qu'ils font ce que je veux. » C'est une pensée légitime. Mais penses-y de cette façon : lorsque tu ne montres pas de signes d'intérêt pour eux sur le plan humain, ils peuvent penser que tu les utilises simplement comme des outils pour faire le travail.

Cela peut à son tour créer un désengagement. À la place, sois curieux de savoir ce qui motive tes employés. Si quelqu'un a du mal à être productif, demande-lui ce qui se passe dans sa vie personnelle et comment cela affecte son travail. Lorsque tu sais que quelque chose ne va pas, tu peux alors prendre le temps de faire des suivis avec cette personne de temps en temps.

As a leader, how do you occur to the people around you? Is that what you want? If not, what are you going to do about it?