Reputation Management vs Reputation Leadership

In today’s world, the focus on reputation management grows stronger each year. But I think it’s time for a change in focus — from reputation management to reputation leadership — because reputation leadership is far more important.

Here’s a quick illustration to clarify the difference between the two.

How to Take Ownership of Your Reputation

As a leadership and employee engagement speaker, I often challenge audience members to take 100 percent ownership of their reputation. I explain that owning their reputation does not require “management” or “spin.” Instead, it requires leadership. In other words, ownership requires individuals to lead their lives in such a way that their reputation remains sweet instead of turning sour (and hence, the need for “management” or “spin”).

Before explaining the difference between reputation management and reputation leadership during my presentation, I pull out a bottle of lemonade and a bottle of chocolate milk to establish its importance in a very visible way. Here’s what I do…

Why Reputation Management Isn’t Enough

I start by explaining that my throat gets dry when I speak, and that I’ve found a unique way to relieve the problem. I take a swig of chocolate milk and say, “I looove chocolate milk” and explain how the sweetness of chocolate milk soothes my throat. Next, I take a big gulp of lemonade and say, “But I also loooooove lemonade” and then describe how the intense sour taste of lemonade is like medicine to my swollen vocal cords. I go back and forth several times, and with each swallow, my face turns a deeper shade of green.

Before the audience becomes too uncomfortable, I say, “I love each so much, I should just mix them together.”

So that’s exactly what I do… and then I take a big gulp of the new concoction.

Once everyone finishes groaning in disgust, I jump up on my soapbox and explain we cannot develop a good reputation if we constantly mix sweet actions with sour actions. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many sweet actions we take. One sour action can instantly turn all that sweetness into sour and disgusting chocolate lemonade. As Will Rogers said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”

Bottom line, no amount of “spinning” or “management” can turn sour actions into a sweet reputation. A sweet reputation is developed by being better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you are today. And that, my friends, takes leadership.

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