The one thing that is certain for every human being alive on the planet whether you live in an Amazon village or you’re a Pope or a Presiden; if you are known by other human beings you will have a ‘reputation’. How important that reputation is depends on whether you care what others may feel, think or do about you.
At this point, self confirmed cave-dwelling hermits need not read any further, but for the rest of us this post might hold an insight for you.
If you believe that in order to achieve your wider ambition as a leader you probably need others to help you succeed, then there is one thing that you must give birth to, nurture and protect as if it were a new born infant… your reputation.
There is no difference, in essence, between a good one and a bad one because either could help you achieve your goal; so I shall talk about effectiveness rather than in terms of good and bad… except to say that at a guess, I don’t think Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot thought they had ‘bad’ reputations. Unfortunately I think it’s just a matter pf perspective.
In the end a reputation is a history of your past and how it has affected those around you both near and far. It’s the story that you tell about yourself and that others tell about you; and like there is a gap between your self perception and the perception of others, there is also likely a gap between your idea of your reputation and others’.
A reputation is formed from others’ perception of your expressed thoughts, behaviours, actions and responses. As soon as you’re born, from the first moments of life, others are forming opinions about you and from those opinions our individual reputation begins to evolve.
Granted; there’s not much a new-born can do to ‘manage’ its reputation of looking like its parent, being hairy or not, crying too much or too little, feeding easily or not etc. In fact until the infant evolves into a sense that they are not the centre of the world, and that in order to survive and thrive, it must interact, influence and be influenced by others, their reputation is totally in the hands of others.
The thing I’ve realised about a reputation is that it’s fluid and, to a greater of lesser degree, you can steer its course through conscious endeavour.
Awakedness, or consciousness first hits us at different times in our lives, I don’t remember when it happened to me first, but at a deeper level I know I didn’t really ‘wake up’ until I was around 50 years old… and based on that I realise that there’s probably more ‘waking up’ to come.
However; waking up that late didn’t mean I couldn’t previously function and be ‘successful’ in life, depending on your definition of it. In fact to most western sensibilities I was extremely successful, with most of the trappings that ‘success’ traditionally brings, and all by my mid twenties.
With hindsight I realise now that I unconsciously viewed myself as a good person, someone who played by the rules and didn’t take shortcuts, honest in my personal and business dealings and if anything ever went wrong, I would always, or nearly always be able, or try to, put it right.
So even though I didn’t consciously set out to build a reputation, a reputation was evolving around me, and while it was, I didn’t really ever think about it… it just was.
However; my reputation, as far as one can ever know what it is, because in essence it isn’t, wasn’t and won’t be one thing, my reputation in miocrocsom, was, is and will be as many things as there are individual POV’s of me. Other’s POV of me is my reputation to those individuals, and will differ a little or a lot depending on what their experience of me is. NB For references to ‘me’ in those last sentences, you can replace ‘me’ with ‘you’.
So how’s you’re reputation as of right now. Let’s think for a moment, and to keep it simple, let’s just divide it into two… personally and professionally.
What’s you’re reputation within your family? How do you think your reputation is with your partner, if you have one; or your parents, brothers, sisters, children, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, friends? How about all those other people you deal in your life, the guy who fixes your car, the woman who serves you breakfast in your usual cafe or bar, your local shopkeepers, the guy in the pertrol/gas station?
Moving on… how about your reputation with your boss, his boss, your colleagues, direct reports, clients, receptionists you regularly come into contact with, third party contractors etc?
Consciously creating the impact you choose, by putting your attention on your intention, so you keep people awake, engaged and informed… in that order… is a massive job requiring comittment, engagement energy and… more energy and comittment and engagement than you ever thought you might be able to generate.
So, again to keep it simple, you can now do one of two things; keep your head down and let or hope your reputation takes care of itself… or you can take a breath, and stick your head above the parapet.
You can choose to wake up and smell your ‘reputation’, and start doing what you can to protect, evolve and nurture it; because in the end… it’s all we have.
Of all the material trappings of wealth things we may leave behind, I believe our reputation is the only thing we’ll leave behind that really matters when we’re gone… because one day, go we must.
Depending on the environment and the shared culture you inhabit, you may have more or less control over the stories others tell about you.