What is a point of view?


First of all, let’s examine what a point of view is. I often get asked about the difference between a point of view (POV) and an opinion. When I use the phrase point of view, I have a very specific meaning in mind. And a formula.

The dictionary defines ‘point of view’ as ‘a manner of viewing things; an attitude; a position from which something is observed or considered; a standpoint’.

It defines ‘opinion’ as ‘a judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge’.

Exactly right. To me, a point of view and an opinion are fundamentally different. Your point of view will seldom change – because it is based on the things you believe in, on the things you are prepared to stand up for and on your view of the world from the position you occupy. Presumably, the leadership position you occupy and your basic beliefs and values will be constant for some time. An opinion is subject to change, and is much more about your view of a subject based on how much you understand about it now – which could change with more information or insight.

You are going to be much more constant with your point of view, especially when it is in opposition to that of your critics and detractors. We will see later in this chapter why that matters, and how and why it can win you the day. We will also see how a point of view can power thought leadership, and why that matters too.

A key part of the definition of a point of view is the word ‘attitude’. Attitude is described in the dictionary as ‘a complex mental orientation involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways’. A point of view should embrace all of these things. It should be an expression of what you think and believe about the world you operate in, it should describe how you behave every day as a result of those beliefs, it should take a stand on issues that are important, and it should call on others to act and behave in the ways you believe necessary.

Essentially, a point of view is an expression of what you stand for, and in a radically transparent world where everyone is connected and can express their own views, it is increasingly important to have one, and make it public.

There is no longer a ‘mass audience’; instead we are dealing with a majority of minorities, an ever increasing number of niche interests needing to be addressed. For example, fast-food chains have to deal with obesity groups, health groups, anti-litter groups, farmer’s groups, consumer groups and so on. Middle-ground consensus is no longer possible because your issue gets aired in a thousand different debates and discussed at the edges the whole time. Your actions will be praised and pilloried at the same time. You and I, in the middle, hear wildly contradictory views – a juxta-positioning of extremes.

One of my favourite quotes comes from Michael Eisner, a leader in the US entertainment industry and for 10 years CEO of Walt Disney Company. He said: ‘The best leaders always have a potent point of view. What amazes me is that it is always the person with a strong point of view who influences the group, who wins the day.’

And that’s a key point. You have to have one, already formulated, about the issues of importance to you. You can’t make one up on the hoof. Once you have one, it is like carrying with you a loaded gun. You may not need it, but when you do it is already loaded and ready to be fired at your target.