Big Picture

Why your reputation is more important than you think

Rebecca Houghton
  • When people think of personal reputation management, they immediately think about celebrities or politicians.
  • But everyone has a reputation, and it’s one of your most important assets.
  • A positive reputation attracts great talent to your organisation and helps you negotiate and collaborate more easily.
  • I work extensively with mid-level leaders who are too senior to be on the tools and too junior to be inner circle. It’s a tough gig, translating strategy into reality, driving culture, being both a leader and a follower. Exhausting.
  • This article is part of CEOWORLD magazine’s ongoing series on Big Picture.
  • Visit CEOWORLD magazine’s homepage for more stories.

Maybe that’s why most B-Suite leaders fail to leverage their leadership brand, or maybe that’s an excuse. We have a pretty complex relationship with the concept of our leadership brand – many of us find it distasteful and would prefer to stay out of the limelight. Yet we are in a leadership role, which means our heads are already above the parapet. Ask any C-suite leader and they will tell you that they started working on their leadership reputation long before they got into the C-Suite – in fact, it’s usually what got them there in the first place. In Christine Holgate’s case, it was an investment worth making – it propelled her into a top CEO position, and it protected her when she needed it the most. Let’s take a few tips from the top:

Define your leadership brand

We obsess over our personal value proposition when we’re job hunting but then stop projecting that value once we come on board, which I would argue is an even more important time! Your first job upon landing a new role is to project your brand – so people know why they hired you, what you’re going to be good for, and what they should expect.

Be consistent

If you play outside your brand or behave inconstantly, it gets picked up by those watching – and as a leader, someone is always watching. Christine Holgate, champion of the humble postie and struggling local post office, bulk-buying from Cartier? It was ‘inconsistent with public expectation’, but more importantly it was inconsistent with her brand and that is what got the press off-side.

Project your value to prove your value

Have you ever been frustrated when your executives aren’t noticing the great work that you and your team produce? And even more frustrated when another leader, who produces no work of note, is recognised, and promoted? This is a classic example of expecting your work to speak for itself and waiting to prove your value. That other leader is projecting their value and getting noticed for it. The quality of their work will catch up to their reputation in time. We may not like to play that game, but those are the rules.

Control your brand or others will

Holgate treats her reputation as a precious commodity – and kept it firmly in her control despite how difficult her situation became. In the C-Suite, you run the risk of trial by media. In the B-Suite, it’s trial by gossip. If you’ve ever done something wrong as a leader, you’ll know what I mean. People who don’t even know you feel that they have the right to judge you and without a frame of reference like a defined leadership brand, it’s hard to defend.

Leadership means visibility

I’ve often sat in performance review calibrations and listened to executives give good leaders an ordinary result for no better reason than ‘they’re not on my radar’. That may seem harsh, but it’s a reality of the importance of your reputation in executive circles. As a leader, not on the radar means you’re not doing the job.

A visible leader is a valuable leader

No reputation means no visibility. While some leaders are uncomfortable with visibility, it’s an inherent part of the job and you not only let yourself down by failing to invest, but you let down your team, your boss and potentially your firm. Igniyte, a reputation management company, tells us that on average, 49% of the company’s reputation is attributable to its CEO’s reputation. While you might not be a CEO, you are the chief of your team, and these stats apply to them the same. If you don’t have a reputation, chances are that neither do your team, so you’re doing them a disservice by staying under the radar.

Social proof is the best proof

Bezos famously said, “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room’ and Holgate proved that eloquently. More people (and media) spoke about Christine than she spoke about herself – and with far strong effect. Could she have called herself the best CEO in Australia who happens to be a woman? No, but the media did, and it stuck. For the B-Suite, it’s what networks, mentors and Linked-in recommendations are for – so use them.

Take the self out of self-promotion

Leadership expert Amanda Blesing would tell you that Holgate took self out of self-promotion by making her issue one of bullying and discrimination. Her brand became one of service of others and as a result, was magnified and supported. We all know what we think of someone who’s brand exists to serve themselves – it’s probably the fear of that very thing that’s putting you off leveraging your brand right now isn’t it?

Reputation management enables opportunities, but on average, B-Suite leaders underinvest in their reputation, and it leads them to being overlooked and frustrated. It even makes their day-to-day jobs harder because their reputation is not doing any of the heavy lifting. You don’t have to spend $3000 a day on a reputation management firm, but you do have to spend some time investing in your leadership reputation. While I hope you never have a situation like Holgate had to contend with, it’s a good job she had that brand equity to draw own on when she needed it. Do you?


Written by Rebecca Houghton.

Track Latest News Live on CEOWORLD magazine and get news updates from the United States and around the world. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow CEOWORLD magazine on Twitter and Facebook. For media queries, please contact: info@ceoworld.biz

Rebecca Houghton
Rebecca Houghton, author of ‘Impact: 10 Ways to Level up your Leadership’ ($29.95), is a Leadership and Talent Expert and founder of BoldHR. Rebecca builds B-Suite leaders with C-Suite impact by working at an organisational, team and individual level. Her passion is helping to evolve how leaders think, take action and relate to others, working with leaders and leadership teams to achieve greater impact.


Rebecca Houghton is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.