Integrity Versus Reputation

Jack Prot

“It’s never too late to become the person you could have been.” -George Eliot

Reputation is how people perceive you. Integrity implies doing the right thing for the right reasons. Please don’t confuse integrity with reputation. As you develop yourself and become the person of character that is able to influence a following, it’s sometimes easy to get sucked into thinking that as long as your reputation is outstanding, then you’re fine. This fallacy is simply not true.

Sometimes a leader has an outstanding reputation but there is little or nothing to their character. Have you ever worked for somebody that everyone thought was the most wonderful person, but you knew differently? That’s a classic example of integrity and character verses reputation or popularity. With good marketing, reputation can be fabricated for the short term, but it always fails in the long run. People who are not honest to the core, have a hard time finding committed followers. They may have people who stick with them for many years but those people are typically following a paycheck, not a person. These people are not committed to the vision. In fact, down deep they may really dislike the job and their leader which in turn may cause them to speak poorly of their organization. This eventually destroys the false image of reputation.

The antithesis of this is when a person has tremendous integrity but their reputation has been run through the mud. This can happen for a variety of reasons, perhaps unpopular choices or difficult situations have taken their toll on your organization. If you find yourself in this position it is so important for you to act with integrity in all you do if you ever hope for things to change… and they will change. Reputation is fickle; character is enduring. The tide changes with reputation quite frequently. It’s more volatile than the NY stock exchange right now. The unfortunate and harsh reality is, if this is something you can’t handle, you may want to reconsider being in a leadership position.

But if you’ve decided you can handle it and you realize it comes with the territory, then the best thing to do is try to ignore it. This is easier said than done sometimes, but you must decide who you are going to become and head boldly in that direction. Never waver from your core values when making decisions based on how it might affect your reputation or how people might view you. In the end, sincere integrity will rise above reputation every time.

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