Reputation or Character?

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

Character is anchored by our core values.

My faith is a core value for me and my identity is deeply rooted in my faith. Over the years of my professional life, my beliefs and identity have guided me and helped me to evolve in the way I show up in the workplace.

As a young leader, I was driven by performance and I failed to connect with my team in ways that communicated how valued each person was. I focused on building a corporate reputation of delivery and efficiency.  I am thankful for the maturing of my faith that has transformed my identity and the way I relate to others. Now, I seek to first connect and extend respect to everyone, because I believe each person is valuable. I am diligent about what I do because I see my work as a form of worship and thanksgiving offered up to God for blessing me with the talents and the opportunities to serve. When I think about what I want to be known for, I think about how I want people to feel valued, accepted, encouraged when they interact with me.

I have spent years now living out my belief, treating others as equally valuable. Yet, my own sense of value was severely shaken recently through an experience with a challenging manager. Leadership expert, Dr. John C. Maxwell says in his book, The Self-Aware Leader,

Great people desire to bring out the greatness in others. Small people will try to put the same limits on you that they have put on themselves. - Dr. John C. Maxwell

The experience I had with this particular was one of the most challenging in my 25+ years in the professional world.
Every experience is an opportunity to grow our character.

While the experience caused me tremendous turmoil, it also gave me the opportunity for deep introspection. What I realized is that I had grafted part of my identity to the reputation I built through my years with the company. Reputation, though, is fragile, and can be tainted by someone else, especially if someone acts in a way that is destructive to me. Because of the false accusations I faced and the actions by this particular manager to discredit me, I felt like the reputation I worked so hard on building was being stripped away, without my permission. I recently read a quote:

Don’t put the whole of your identity into the smallness of a situation. - Lysa Terkeurst

This caused me to rethink my recent experience. I still think reputation is important; but character is of greater significance. Character is always encased within ourselves and can only be changed by our choices and actions, not by someone else. Even though I was shaken by the experience, the truth is my character was intact, and if anything, the experience caused it to strengthen.

One of the key lessons I was reminded of through my experience is the importance of leading others well. John C. Maxwell says, “Leaders have the power to make things better or worse for the people who follow them.” Maxwell also said, “Leadership is a trust, not a right.”

As leaders, we have a responsibility to model the strong character traits to our team members. Have you earned the trust of your team by leading them well? What would your team say about your impact on their lives? Do you lead to preserve your reputation or do what it takes to build and preserve your character?

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