What is most the most important attribute to developing your reputation? Would you prefer to be known as reliable, respected, revered or feared? Is it possible to be all of these things over time? Constructing your reputation is like solving a Rubik's Cube puzzle. It takes time, several steps and the right combination of twists and turns. It is also important to know what it should look like when you are done. When you have the goal in your mind, then you can go about solving the puzzle.
The goal of developing your reputation is to be true to yourself. Be consistent with your principals and your personal values. Your actions, your decisions and your interaction with others should be a reflection of the way that you live your life. If you attempt to disguise your intentions or beguile your associates, you will not be able to maintain trust or confidence. If your intentions are to help your customers, look for other individuals with similar intentions. If you are content with your own situation, then enjoy the camaraderie of your peers and help them to achieve their goals. If your intention is personal advancement or promotions, be open about searching for people who will support your efforts.
If you define and share your goals, you will either find supporters or other individuals with similar goals. At the same time, be cognizant and supportive of the goals of those around you. Be prepared to listen intently and understand the aspirations of coworkers and customers. You person who listens the most is heard loudest.
First, establish a reputation for being reliable. Regardless of your position, title or tenure, the foundation of your reputation should be reliability. If you are the leader, manager, director, clerk, associate or representative, maintain a dedicated focus on being consistently reliable. It is equally important to be a reliable customer as it is to be a reliable vendor or supplier. No matter how powerful or seemingly unimportant you may perceive your responsibilities, there are other people who rely on you. Be consistently reliable for the people you report to, to the people who look up to you, the people that you support and to the people who support you.
Even if some people respect you, revere you or fear you, you will have no value to anyone if you are not reliable. Do not forget this basic foundation in the search for power or prestige. You may be respected for your capability, but what good is it if you can not be counted on as a reliable individual? This is based on your ability to perform consistently and to be supportive of others.
You do not have to be the president or a brain surgeon to be respected. Take a look at the positions and the people that you respect most in your life. Then look to see what these people have in common. School teachers and police officers are respected for their individual sacrifice and dedication to their profession in the service of others. Respect can be earned by great achievements through consistent effort, self-sacrifice and being someone that other people can count on, being reliable. A leader or a coach does not earn respect for the position, but rather by what they do with the authority and responsibility of the position. A coworker may earn respect by diligence, effort or self-sacrifice. Winning the lottery may achieve instant wealth, but it does not earn instant respect.
What can you do to earn respect? You might be respected for your talent, for your character or for your perseverance. Respect may be earned by the way that you use your experience, knowledge or previous achievements. If you want to be respected and do not know how to begin, start by being reliable.
REVERED or FEARED
For centuries there has been a debate regarding the benefits of being revered or being feared. One dimensional leaders often choose one of these attributes for their reputation and dedicate their ambitions toward a single goal, to be revered or to be feared. Machiavelli described the importance of being feared, and many dictators who embraced this approach were eventually rewarded with revolution. On the other hand, individuals who take extreme measures to be liked or revered may run the risk of being taken advantage of, and thereby losing much more than respect.
In the balance of leadership, individuals are more likely to make perform or make sacrifice for something and somebody that they believe in. When performance and sacrifice is demanded through fear, the output is reluctant and can not be sustained. From a personal perspective, are you more likely to repeat a task and improve your personal performance when doing something that you enjoy, or for someone that you want to please? Are you more or less likely to expend extra effort consistently for a job or a person that you resent?
Good decisions are made when clear purpose and goals are established and shared. The predominance of fear impairs good decisions, or even worse, may precipitate a culture that lacks any decisions for fear of being ostracized. Avoiding a decision is the same as making a decision to allow unmanaged consequences.
It is possible to be both revered and feared. By virtue of being respected as a reliable individual, you will become both revered and feared. Some individuals will appreciate consistency, predictability, direction and reliability. By the same token, if you are consistent with your own personal goals and values, you may be feared by other individuals. If your values are self-serving, you will be revered by a small group of like-minded individuals and feared by many. If your values are self-sacrificing toward the greater good, then you will find yourself revered by many and feared by the self-serving. In any case, consistency of purpose and character will create circumstances that cultivate opportunities to be revered, feared or both. This depth of character is far superior to a hollow one dimensional approach of choosing to be only revered or feared.
What does all this mean? Stop worrying about your reputation and concentrate on doing those things that reputations are built on. Listen intently to others. Be willing to make sacrifices for others. Be consistently reliable, and be true to yourself. Do your job with the same principles and passions that you live your life, and your reputation will take care of itself. By coincidence, if you can achieve this dedicated diligence to your values, you will discover an inverse relationship that your reputation will grow as your care less about it.
Words of Wisdom
"Conscience and reputation are two things. Conscience is due to yourself, reputation to your neighbor." - Saint Augustine
"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." - Henry Ford
"Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of - for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear." - Socrates
"There are two modes of establishing our reputation: to be praised by honest men, and to be abused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the former, because it will invariably be accompanied by the latter." - Charles Caleb Colton