Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Reputation: Guard It

So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life

According to Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, reputation is the cornerstone of power. Reputation alone can intimidate and win. Vulnerability will invite attacks from all sides. Reputations should be unassailable; one should be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. According to Greene, one should destroy enemies by opening holes in their own reputations and after the holes are opened, stand aside and let public opinion take over.
Notably a person in recent political history was a victim of such reputation damage. He was not able to recover from it and finally offered his resignation; of course a different reason was cited for this.
Colin Powel is a highly decorated military personnel. Before Operation Desert Storm was executed, he publicly opposed several of George H.W. Bush's administration officials who advocated the deployment of troops to the Middle East to force Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to withdraw his armies from neighboring Kuwait. Powel believed that the dictator could instead be contained through sanctions and a buildup of forces around Kuwait.
Before the War on Terror in Iraq, Powell, who was by then a prominent figure on President Bush’s cabinet where he served as the Secretary of State, was able influence Bush to present a case for war at the United Nations. Powell also found himself presenting questionable intelligence to the U.N. to make a case of WMD presence in Iraq. The intelligence was proven to be false; no WMDs were found and the weapon sites revealed nothing. Powel, with his reputation severely bruised, decided to step down from the Bush administration's cabinet. Powell, who had an impeccable record, found his reputation tarnished by this. But it was too late.
Could he have done things differently?
On one hand he had to support his president and on the other hand he had to support his core values and beliefs of war. He was probably torn between the two choices. He went in half-sure. He was vulnerable. He should have guarded his reputation with his life. He should have quit sooner, with honor. Had he not appeared before the United Nations at all, the history books would be kinder to him. When we will look at Colin Powell, as a highly decorated individual, we will also see a vulnerability that was exposed through political ineptitude that caused his reputation to take a severe beating on the world stage. Guard your reputation with your life.

You can buy the book, first read the heartless list of the laws. If you read the book, read it with a grain of salt. Do not loose your values, beliefs and ethics.