MANAGING A PUBLIC IMAGE: ROB THOMAS

These domains constitute one’s “public image. Personal self-worth is contingent on demonstrating traits and abilities in one’s chosen domains. power. Thus. . or professional success. others on being morally virtuous. or strong.INTRODUCTION     Social psychological research on the self suggests that we consistently seek evidence of our own merit and strive to demonstrate such evidence to others. we have a strong and persistent interest in proving to ourselves and to others that we are our public images. others on having accumulated wealth.” Success and failure in demonstrating one’s public image generalize to the sense one has of one’s value as a whole person. Some people stake their self-worth on being popular.

 One’s public image is shaped not only by the personal characteristics one wishes to convey to others. . skills. and social class. such as race. It is often influenced by the hope of being seen as associated with or distanced from the stereotypes that characterize those social identity groups. such as knowledge.  The social identity component of a public image refers to the image one wishes to convey as a member of various social identity groups. nationality. and values. gender. experiences. but also by one’s social identity affiliations. abilities.

skills. experiences and values) Social Identity: the individual defined in terms of his or her membership in various social groups (race. nationality and social class)  .SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY  A conceptualization recognizing that the way we perceive others and ourselves is based on both our unique characteristics and our membership in various groups  Personal Identity: the individual defined in terms of his or her personal characteristics (knowledge. gender. abilities.

but his efforts to get her promoted fail. . When a capable but undistinguished female consultant comes up for partner. In the end. Thomas questions whether he has been an effective leader in support of a cause about which he cares deeply. Thomas was initially paralyzed by his desire to appear as a fair and infallible leader. middle-aged man who is managing director of a mid-sized consulting firm where he is committed to increasing staff gender and racial diversity. Unwilling to risk the disapproval of any constituency.MANAGING A PUBLIC IDENTITY: ROB THOMAS Rob Thomas describes some of the challenges he has faced as a white. Thomas decides to take a stand.

. . rather than as an end in itself.To raise awareness of how leaders proactively shape others’ perceptions of their competence and character.To understand the dynamics of public image construction in a leadership context. .OBJECTIVES  • • • • . .To grapple with the tradeoffs people make between the self-directed goals they hold when seeking to prove their public image and the other or task-directed goals they hold as leaders.To help students mobilize their public image as a means to those goals.To understand how social identity-related concerns are implicated in public image dynamics .

• To consider how public image concerns can influence cross-cultural interactions.ADDITIONAL OBJECTIVES • To give students insights into how their social identities influence the images they seek to convey and the strategies they use to convey them. .

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS How successful was Thomas as a managing director?  To what extent did Thomas’ public image concerns get in his way?  Did he strike a good balance between his selfdirected and other-directed concerns?  .

 Thomas was driven by his desire not to alienate the senior partners. and to prove his commitment to diversity (all self-directed goals). to be seen as fair. not to be seen as critical of his predecessors. .and other-directed goal). to avoid conflict (to be liked). but he also was committed to increasing value to his firm by making it more diverse (a task.

or task-directed goals?”   “Must one abandon public image concerns in order to achieve other.or task-directed goals?” . how do you mitigate the liabilities of self-directed goals? If a tradeoff. “Can you pursue both kinds of goals at once or must there be a tradeoff? If both are possible. how do you make that tradeoff? “Are there costs associated with pursuing other.

and what are the costs?”   .ASK YOURSELF  “What public images do you wish to convey or not convey about yourself?”  “What do you do or not do to ensure that others see you as your ideal image. or to ensure that they don’t see you as your dreaded image?” “Do you ever have concerns about your public image when you are in class? Do you worry about how others will judge your comments?” “What benefits do you get from doing these things.

PUBLIC IMAGE AND WORK GOALS Self-directed Goals (aimed at proving one’s public image) Task-directed Goals (aimed at accomplishing one’s work goals) Seek to project the desired image Anxiety and stress when one fears the dreaded image will come across Mistakes and failures seen as threats Inability to take advantage of situations and learn Public Image becomes the end Lesser need to validate or prove self Lesser need to inflate our virtues and therefore lesser stress Mistakes and failures seen as opportunities to learn and grow Are able to learn and take advantage of situations Public image becomes a means .

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