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You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do

Author Gavin Megaw
Published 22 Aug 2022
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The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso once decreed that “action is the foundational key for all success”. He may have been one of the most reputed leaders of modern art, but with such a mindset he might have been an effective leader of a modern business.

GOOD LEADERS ARE PROACTIVE IN CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO. THEY SCRATCH BENEATH THE SURFACE TO IDENTIFY THE ‘REPUTATION GAP’ BETWEEN WHAT THEY SAY AND WHAT THEY DO AND THEN ACTIVELY DEAL WITH THEM.

Those businesses who attempt to paint a perfect picture are adding to the risk and threatening their futures. Good leaders are proactive as Picasso suggests, and that means challenging the status quo. They scratch beneath the surface to identify the ‘reputation gap’ between what they say and what they do and then actively deal with them.

This is important as when a significant reputation gap is exposed by external stakeholders instead of business leaders, it rarely ends well. It results in negative headlines and often detrimental political interest. Those leaders who seek to find and own their gaps, dealing with the operational implications and, counter-intuitively, proactively telling that story to key stakeholders are making their business tangibly stronger and more resilient. It is not brave, it is smart. They are protecting their shareholders and delivering on the mandate they have been given.

Group of people looking at graphs on print outs.

Good businesses make this part of their day-to-day operations. They embed reputation into management processes at every level, seeking to continually explore and fill gaps on an ongoing basis, and holding the management team to account for doing so.

Being proactive in enhancing reputation is good business. It should not be something done solely when facing a crisis. It should be a way of life within an organisation that helps it and its top team excel. As Henry Ford once said: “You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

If done properly with honesty and authenticity, putting real purpose and reputation at the heart of a business will improve operations, increase employee engagement, and reduce risks. It often moves business out of blue periods and into the light – just like Picasso – enhancing the focus, dedication, and mood of all who touch the process. It’s not a complicated nor an abstract concept…why wouldn’t you do it?

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