Big Picture

Why perspective is key to effective leadership

Joe Hart

Emotional Intelligence was popularised by Daniel Goleman and has been largely accepted as a necessary and predictive for success in work, relationships, and life. Fundamental to emotional intelligence is the ability to understand what others are feeling, how your emotions affect others, and how you can use emotion to enhance outcomes. At the core of emotional intelligence is the ability to empathise with another, see the world from their view, take on their perspective which broadens your own. 

In working with leaders, those that demonstrate higher levels of empathy have better relationships, attract more talented employees and retain them for longer, build more diverse teams, and achieve sustainable results. The ability to see things from another’s perspective is a powerful skill that can be developed by any leader, regardless of their natural levels of empathy.

Perspective taking, in my opinion, is one of the most useful tools any of us have in our life-skills tool belt. Equally, to lose perspective is one of the greatest handicaps one can suffer. Being able to shift perspective helps us re-focus in times of crisis, understand somebody else’s behaviour or point of view, see new possibilities for old problems, and learn from our mistakes. Given that the ability to shift your perspective is so powerful, I think it’s an ability worth practising.

How can I get more perspective?

The best way to gain perspective is to talk with somebody objective, who isn’t caught up in your world. Refrain from sharing all the details that are most likely irrelevant to solving your problem. Their objectivity is what you want to tap into.

This could be a coach, mentor, colleague, family member or anyone else who has the ability to actively listen to what you are saying and enable you to ‘hear yourself’. When somebody reflects back what you have shared, you are able to see it from a fresh, truer, perspective that enables you to respond differently.

If you’re alone or don’t have anybody you are able to tap on the shoulder for some objectivity, I’ve got two tools that are superb at generating alternative perspectives.

  1. The directors cut
    This exercise is useful when you are struggling to understand an interaction that didn’t go well, or make sense of a conversation that left you scratching your head. Rather than assume that your first interpretation is correct, I want you to imagine that you are re-watching the interaction as if a director was re-watching the unedited version of their movie. Try to observe the behaviours that are being displayed, and avoid the temptation to interpret what might be going on for each of the characters. Simply observing the behaviour will enable you to be objective rather than get caught up in the details and interpretation of the drama. This approach should provide you with a much simpler, direct perspective to act upon.
  2. Five perspectives
    This can be challenging but certainly gets you unstuck if you are having trouble seeing things differently. First, capture your current perspective by writing it down. Your task is to generate as many alternative perspectives that are as different to your original perspective as possible. This sounds easy, but it’s quite hard to get beyond 3 or 4 alternative perspectives. The more you practise it, the better you will get. If you can’t generate any alternative perspectives, you are most likely placing more value on your belief than finding a solution.

To sum it all up, seeing the world through somebody else’s eyes is all about creating a two-way empathy lane. You demonstrate your ability to understand another, and they are more inclined to want to understand you in return. This simple rule of reciprocity will generate a powerful foundation for better reflection, better relationships and better results. While seeking alternative perspectives might feel like hard work, the more perspective you seek the more clarity you will find.


Written by Joe Hart.
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Joe Hart
Joe Hart is an Organisational Psychologist and founder of True Perspective; A leadership development practice. He is a highly experienced executive coach, speaker, trainer, and facilitator who helps leaders to drive honest conversations, build trust and create meaningful change. He is also the author of True Perspective (Hambone Publishing $27.99).


Joe Hart is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.