My all time favourite TV series is M*A*S*H, a comedy/drama centred around the doctors and nurses of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit during the Korean War. The series was so popular that it outlasted the duration of the 3 year war, spanning 11 seasons and 251 episodes.

The strong characterisation and story lines presented thought provoking themes that provide an ideal platform for lessons on life and leadership. Whether you are a fan of the show or not, I'm sure you will connect with my leadership insights from M*A*S*H.

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES features bite-sized, candid insights that speak into the gritty space of leadership through the eyes of a fellow leader seeking to "lead with all diligence" (Romans 12:8).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Professional Reputation

Episode 52:  Iron Guts Kelly

Colonel:    Is the General ill?
Trapper:    He’s a little past ill.
Hawkeye:    He’s dead.
Colonel:    He was fine a little while ago.  What happened?
Trapper:    Myocardial infarction….
Colonel:    He died in action at the front.  Leading his troops 
            against overwhelming odds, with shells bursting all 
            around him, until that one shell with his name on it  
            caught up with him.  That’s how General “Iron Guts”  
            Kelly died….I got a pretty good idea how he really 
            went.  It’s got to appear as though he died more  
            meaningfully.  There’s a Zen saying:  Just as a clay   
            jar will sooner or later crumble while being lowered  
            into a well, so old generals must eventually perish in  
            battle.  All you have to do is sign the death 
            certificate.  I’ll fill in the details….History demands 
            that the general die a glorious death.

When General Iron Guts Kelly visits the 4077 and dies in Major Houlihan’s tent, his aid creates a cover story to hide the real cause of death and contrive a more heroic death for the General by organising for his body to be driven to a front line battle.

How much is your reputation worth?  What would you do to protect it?  What values would you compromise to maintain a professional image?  These are challenging questions for leaders and organisations who want to protect their personal or corporate brand.  Make no mistake, reputation is important, but is it important enough to pursue at the expense of core values and character?  Consider these notable quotes that place a good reputation in the right context of sound character:  “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” (Abraham Lincoln); “The way to gain good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” (Socrates); “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” (John Wooden).  Character trumps reputation every time!

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