In a major misstep, Harvey Weinstein’s former attorney, Lisa Bloom, damaged her professional branding and what inspired others to follow her. Only she knows what motivated her to back away from her professional purpose and to move in the absolute opposite direction. By legally representing Harvey Weinstein, she separated herself from her mission as the attorney for women who are litigating against sexual harassment. Now, she was defending Harvey Weinstein, a man with multiple such allegations against him.
"Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life's artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist." - Robert Greene
Changing the direction of your leadership vision, mission, and purpose can lead to a severely damaged professional reputation that can be very difficult to rebound from. An example of this is a leader who decides that her “We are here to make a difference to others” vision is now “Profits are the most important focus.” It can happen to any leader who is unclear about or changes what they believe in. The fallout can be that others no longer believe in you and do not want to follow you. It can devastate your image and you can lose your professional trajectory.
After more negative and possibly criminal accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior was reported in the media, Lisa dropped him as a client. Then the real salvaging of her professional reputation began. Lisa moved quickly into apologizing to her team for pursuing a client that did not align with her “who.” Her apologetic messaging orbited to her clients and potential clients via the media. What could have prevented such an unnecessary tarnishing of her reputation? The very same actions that any leader can take to ensure that their professional image is not marred.
Action 1: Know What You Stand For
Many leaders think their work stands for what they stand for but they fail to recognize that people follow people, not the work. Leaders need to spend time uncovering what their top five values are, whether these values are in alignment with how they project themselves, and how to lead strongly from their values.
A good example is a leader whose number one value is “commitment.” He needs to assess if he demonstrates this value to his direct reports. Does he commit his energy, attention, and resources to his team? Is he their champion? Leaders who do not know their values cannot stay focused on who they are. Their messaging can be diluted with mixed messaging and confusing.
Action 2: Walk the Talk
You probably have been around a leader that expects her team to behave a certain way and then does not do this herself. This can look like a leader who tells her team that hard work is necessary for success on the team and then peels away often for long lunches.
Leaders must take every opportunity to demonstrate to their team that what they say matters to them as well. Team members can easily recognize incongruities and will not follow these leaders. Walking the talk is not just a saying. It is truly a reminder to project what you believe in and what you stand for.
Action 3: Mind Your Words!
Every word a leader says to his team matters. Employees are constantly trying to connect dots to the “Why” of your leadership and the surest route is by the words you use. Make sure all your messaging ties back to your overall stated leadership vision, mission, and purpose. What you say should be like a continuous commercial for “who” you are and what you believe in.
Protecting your professional reputation means knowing who you are as a leader and what you truly stand for. This is your vision and conviction and it must be modeled by what you do and say. Lisa Bloom missed the mark with this. She stated her vision, mission, and purpose but then did not align her actions to them. As a leader, it is imperative to your reputation that you strongly tie your values, actions, and words to how you represent your leadership vision and purpose.
Phyllis Reagin, High Performance Strategist and Executive Coach with CSRH Consulting, guides senior leaders and high-potentials with mastering their leadership. To receive bi-monthly blogs that examine leadership lessons from the entertainment, business, and political worlds, join At The Coach's Table blog.