Abraham Lincoln was a man who seemed to be very concerned with character and he was certainly a person who understood the importance of having a solid reputation. He once explained the difference between being of good character and having a good reputation. “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.” Stated another way, your reputation is what people think of you and your character is who you really are.
We live in a very image driven world. It is easy to get caught up in maintaining the “right” image and subsequently losing sight of our character. Our reputation is a public relations function while our character is based on our morals and values. As leaders we must exhibit a strong persona but this persona must be grounded in integrity and action. Far to many people in leadership positions focus on wearing the right clothes and saying the right things but fall short when it comes to ethics. True character is revealed by actions, not words. How does the person in a leadership role react when “doing the right thing” may cost them more than they are willing to pay?
Our character is greatly revealed by how we treat the people that we believe can neither help us or hurt us. How a person treats the help (people like waiters, drivers, housekeepers and other staff) will go much farther in displaying their true character than how they treat people in power such as their boss or others whom they are dependent on.
Character is not a brand new suit or an evening gown that we put on to make a good impression. Our character is who we really are.
Looking forward to your thoughts and feedback.