Who really knows his true reputation?

“Real gold is not afraid of the melting pot”, a Chinese proverb says. And I know several people who are confident that their good reputation would protect them even if they had to cross flaming gates to get to their destination. But, is their good reputation as solid gold as they think it is? Where do they base their perception about it? And what would happen if they found out that the reality is different?

Most leaders and senior executives think that they know what their personal reputation is. They are even certain that they have a profound understanding of every aspect of it. Where do they base this certainty? By default, to the reflection of what they, themselves, communicate through their role as heads of a country, a corporation, an institution, a team, a religion etc. That means that they base it on the result of their own pretentious effort to tell their audience, their partners and the society that reality is what they say it is. In a few words,they base their perception about their personal reputation on a manipulated image of the supposed truth.

This is why many of them care so much about what others will say about them. They envision that they rank to a certain communication level and they struggle to follow respective communication standards. They move, they act, they make decisions and they go on with their lives based on that, hoping that others will always rank them to the level they envision themselves at. And they hope that the good reputation they believe they have built this way, will keep saving them forever.

In principle, they are not completely wrong on that. An 80% of a person’s reputation is based on the perception of others and not on reality and facts. This is a global truth and, as a result, each person tries to build an image according to his/her ambition or even his/her vanity. He/she publicly describes his/her life and activities with pompous headlines, frames them with beautiful images and perfectly shot videos, gets photographed around people and in places that pretentiously verify that he/she belongs to a certain circle, a team or an elite that he/she wants to belong to. By doing all that, he/she constructs a reputation that confirms the rule saying that it can be built by 80% with pretentiously created impressions and get garnished with a few more or less truthful facts.

Still, life smashes this rule very easily. History is full of examples of people who failed relying on constructed perceptions but because they were armored with an authentic reputation built around their name which was based on reliable facts, true qualities and day-to-day behaviors with continuity and consistency.

Obviously, such a life attitude is not a superficial choice and the strategy of building an authentic reputation requires time, persistence, patience, study, self-evaluation and external objective evaluation. It also presupposescontinuous improvement efforts, systematic adaptation to the demands of each era and taking advantage of communication tools that emerge from time to time as more effective than others.

In times of artificial prosperity, someone may confuse a constructed reputation for an authentic one. They both shine in the spotlight, but they are not both golden.A pretentious well-paid reputation looks golden but it’s not gold. In a tough test, if the shiny leader had to go through iron and fire, his golden reputation would collapse. We have experienced many such “golden” leaders who faded when the time of truth came.

This is why investing in the development of an impressive reputation may only have temporary results. Audiences always get impressed at first, but, as soon as the lie is revealed, they turn to hate what they previously glorified and “gold” becomes coal. And if a reputation based by 80% on constructed perceptions collapses, it also takes down the rest of 20% which was authentic. The previously “golden”, now looks yellow, a tint of sickness and misery.

At that point, the only thing someone can do is fight for the restoration of his/her destroyed reputation. A necessary but long-term and particularly expensive endeavor, which requires excellent methodology, huge experience, coiling friendly forces and stamina in order to endure the uphill road and to finally stand at the level of the eyes of those who really deserve to care for.