The Person and the Role

Self-awareness and politicians are not thought to go together. This is a blog that defies that assumption and is meant for readers who have experienced the value of reflection.

My assumption about you is that you are a political leader with a strong moral sense, who is guided by a set of values that you hold dear. You came to politics stirred by the events of the day, believing that you have a responsibility within a democracy to stand up, and serve your communities. You care about understanding the people within those communities.

Acting upon these values, you’ve just done something completely remarkable - you’ve run for office. You’ve exposed yourself in ways few people are willing to do because you care about the future you shape for your communities and family.

And yet, surely you’ve come right up against one of the hardest realities of being in relationship with others. You are seen through the filters of other people’s perceptions of you.

This is amplified now that you are a political leader. As Julie Diamond says in connection to her book Power: A User’s Manual:

The hardest part of leadership is understanding that you are not what you are, but what you’re perceived to be by others.

People see you, first and foremost, as the role that you play - candidate, mayor, school board member, staff member, whatever the role may be. Their relationship to you even in their minds is based on the function you perform. It is not personal. We people just look at others this way.

Try it out. Imagine someone in a role important to you and consider how you think of them.

At the same time this does not change that at your core you are just a human being. Interesting and rich. So much more than your role. With your own delights. With your own hopes and dreams. With your strengths and weaknesses. The person that you are deserves attention and cultivation.

I assume that you sense this and recognize that politics needs people who can manage the space between the role and the person. And that you can have help navigating those places.

Heather Jensen