“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.” -Abraham Lincoln

Last week I was working with a leader who asked me “What is more important, how people want to see me or me being the real me?”Our discussion opened up around the difference between “character” and “reputation” and what this actually means. Your character is the essence of who you really are and allocating the time and effort into knowing this and being this is vitally important to your success in any role and in life in general. Your reputation is the perception of what others think of you and too often I see individuals focus on this and not the heart of which they really are, their character.

It’s a bit like catching up with a friend who you may have known your entire life and now you value different things and find it hard to have the conversations that used to flow so effortlessly. Gone are the days you could talk for hours on end where there was never enough time to share your stories, commonalities and viewpoints on life. Something has changed, maybe it’s you, maybe it’s them but the point here is if you were to try to maintain the depth and level of conversation that used to flow so easily, it won’t come naturally. You may have heard the term ‘he or she is high maintenance” in this context this means that you have to work hard being with that person. Maybe your values or priorities have changed and therefore you may not feel congruent in your interactions with them anymore. It’s exhausting not to be the real you and it takes time and effort to catch up and be with this person. If you compare this to being the real you in your professional life and being congruent to whom you really are, the “true” you will come through and your “true” reputation will flow from this.

Character comes from within, it is internal and I believe is built by you. Factors that make up your character include the ethics you hold, your values, your moral and integrity and all of these things take time to build. Your reputation is external to you and can be built very quickly as it based on the perceptions and opinions others have of you. Others, not you, determine your reputation so therefore this is out of your control. I am a firm believer we should focus on the things we can control so take some time to understand your true character, what you believe in and stand for and focus on this. 

Renée Giarrusso


Renée Giarrusso is an accomplished facilitator, speaker, trainer and coach who works with high performing leaders and their teams across a myriad of industries and organisations.

She passionately helps leaders fulfil their full potential resulting in increased motivation and performance. Her expertise in growing and developing capability and behavioural change around leadership, communication, transition, presenting and sales effectiveness leave her clients inspired, re-energised and with improved results.

Renée is currently completing work on her first book “Limitless Leadership” – A guide to leading from the inside out

Available for pre-sale July 20th 2016

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