Leaders’ Statements are Promises: Five actions to build your reputation

By Tom Davidson

Thomas Jefferson said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Ralph Waldo Emerson can be credited with the corollary, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Your reputation is shaped by your actions, not by your education, not by your good intentions, and not even by your values. People can’t see those. They can only see your actions.

So here five leadership actions to get better results and build your leadership reputation at same time:

1. Serve Your Team. Being a leader is not about you; it’s about your team. Too many leaders expect obedience because of authority, reward because of position, or admiration because of ego. None of these will be the goal of a good leader. Good leaders serve their teams by giving them clear goals, providing high accountability along with high support, and giving away all the credit to others. Shine the light on others, and it will reflect back on your reputation.

2. Lead by Example. Whatever it is you expect of others, make sure you are doing yourself. If you want people to be creative, then you be creative. If you want people to give that extra effort, then you give that extra effort. If you want people to be active learners, then you be an active and visible learner. Being a role model of what you want may be the single most important leadership tool in your tool kit.

3. Admit Your Mistakes. This is not just about honesty and integrity; it’s about earning trust. Good leaders admit their mistakes faster than anyone. They know when something was their fault. Humble leaders own them and announce them. Arrogant leaders deflect and dodge them. Great leaders know that admitting mistakes is a sign of strength, not weakness, and they see it as an opportunity to build trust and move forward.

4. Learn from Everyone. Great leaders are learners, and they learn from everyone. They are sponges for different points of view, input on decisions, and feedback on performance. As soon as a leader starts to think they have it all figured out is when they start to lose followers. By asking for help and advice, they gain followers because people want to know their leader is learning, just like them.

5. Follow Through. Leaders do what they say they are going to do. Period. So, leaders need to be both careful and bold about what comes out of their mouths. Leaders’ statements are promises. Their inactions on those statements are broken promises, and these add up exponentially fast. Do what you say you’re going to do, and your reputation for being reliable will grow with you and your team.

When you think about it, your reputation is all you really have as a leader. So, take your actions seriously, and you will build a good one, one action at a time. It’s the nature of trust, the nature of teamwork, and the nature of leadership.

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