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May 2014

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It is election time, and because of all the media attention focused on the various party leaders, one cannot help but reflect on the qualities you value most in the people you choose to follow – either in business or politics.

Research shows that the leaders we value most are the ones that strive to exert the greatest impact and influence. They inspire us with their courage and resilience and we seek to imitate them.

Chances are they are also the most respected leaders: leaders that are clear about their identities and expectations; leaders that have the backing of others and that you can trust. Such leaders are hard to find, however: they are also those who make the most of very little, are grateful for an opportunity to lead, and treat others like family. They also regard their reputations as their most valuable asset.

In his book The power of reputation Chris Komisarjevsky makes a strong point: People will listen to what you say, watch how you behave, and take note of the results of your actions. Success and reputation is ultimately built on a foundation of character, communication and trust.

President Abraham Lincoln described character as a tree and reputation as the shadow it casts. This is a wonderful metaphor to describe the importance of character as a fundamental building block in your reputation as a leader. Your values and how you live them constitute your character.

As leaders, our individual reputations are up to each of us – we control what we do and say. We control our behaviour and consequently how others see us. Reputation is not something that just happens – and it’s certainly not something we should leave to chance.

Author: Gerinda Jooste

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