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Managing Image, Perceptions, Credibility & Trust, Part 1

March 21, 2015

SDS presentation-creationManaging Image & Perceptions

Image is inescapable.  For better or worse – every leader has one.  The leader’s words, tone and actions are always being scrutinized and interpreted by others.  The purpose of this article is to help you understand the dynamics of image, making a favorable impression, dealing with misperceptions and building credibility and trust with others.

Making a Favorable First Impression

It only takes a few moments for someone to form an impression of you.  Within a few seconds, another person has seen or heard you, screened you according to his or her worldview and decided how to proceed with you.  You are either “in” or “out” from the start of the “relationship.”

People judge others according to their non-verbal, vocal and verbal communication.  Non-verbal communication makes up about 50 percent of the first impression; vocal communication represents 40 percent of the pie; and verbal communication the remaining 10 percent.  People constantly make judgments about others and categorize them according to perceptions.


A helpful formula for making a favorable first impression is A.D.E.P.T., an acronym for Attitude, Dress, Expression, Poise and Tone.  These ingredients can be cultivated for use on a daily basis to make sure you’re consistently sending the best possible message and supporting your most positive image.   Selecting the most fitting attitude, dress, expression, poise and tone for any given situation helps send the best possible message. Making a favorable impression is part of being an effective leader.   If you want to be liked, understood, trusted and respected, the first impression plays a starring role in getting those responses from others.

Dealing with Misperceptions 

When you make a favorable impression, people will generally treat you favorably – according to their perception of you.  If you don’t make a favorable impression, someone may get a misperception and treat you unfavorably.  When people misperceive you, it can be difficult for them to like, understand, trust or respect you.  People form opinions about others; then those opinions dictate their continued behavior. This can seriously impede communication and collaboration.

There are steps you can take to replace someone’s misperception with a more realistic view of you as a person.  Often, just having conversation and explaining how you “really are” to the other person doesn’t work!  Action, rather than words, is required.  If you can first get the person to treat you differently or favorably, there is a strong possibility that, over time, they will come to see you in more preferable light (Weinberg & Rowe, 1988).

The bottom line is identifying the unacceptable treatment and coming up with a strategy for getting the person to “act” in a preferred way towards you so they begin to see you in new and favorable light.  As a simple analogy, you may remember a time when a parent asked or insisted you play with a child you didn’t like.  Although you were at first reluctant, after a few minutes of digging together in a sandbox, splashing in a pool or playing on swings, you soon became friends – perhaps the best of friends.  Many people have had a similar experience in other situations throughout life including in school, during social activities and at work.  This shows that misperceptions can be changed with a little work, play or trickery!

To purchase and view Drinon Leadership Express go to:

Drinon Leadership Express

Resources & Recommended Reading

  • Covey, S. H.R. (2006). The speed of trust. New York, NY: Free Press
  • Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it (First ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge. (4th ed.) San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
  • Lennick, D. & Kiel, F. (2008). Moral intelligence. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing
  • Weinberg Dr., G., & Rowe, D. (1988). The projection principle. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.


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