If you think about the concept of professional reputation, when was the last time you wondered:  do my colleagues see how honorable, compassionate and humble I am? We generally don’t lose any sleep over this. There’s no cultural need to compete when it comes to character.  Now, that’s not true when it comes to personality. Have you ever felt competitive or even inadequate around others whom you see as being more charismatic, dynamic and magnetic than you?

Traits associated with character: integrity, compassion, generosity, humility, fairness, etc.  Traits associated with personality: charisma, dynamism, poise, magnetism, attractive, etc.  The questions are: which one creates the right reputation, and which one will help us move ahead in our chosen professions?

I came upon an interesting article written by Reputation.com’s CEO, Michael Fertik, entitled, “We Just Hired a Chief People Officer (Why you should too).” In it he describes the importance of the move to drive the values of the company through its people. I love this idea because it’s a charge he’s putting upon his employees to sustain a ‘culture of character’.

Susan Cain, in her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” spends a full chapter on “The Rise of the Mighty Likable Fellow,” which delves into the shift in the late 1800s from a “Culture of Character” (a term coined by cultural historian, Warren Susman) to an early 20th century, “Culture of Personality.”

Ms. Cain’s book discusses how the industrial revolution caused the shift in ideology as a result of people moving from quiet country-life into growing cities at the turn of the 20th century.  To find work, they had to compete.  They had to stand out.  And so, who among the great heroes should emerge out of this shift? Mr. Dale Carnegie. He became the expert in how to be liked, how to persuade, how to gain the attention of others; to thrive in urban life. Timing being perfect for such skills, Mr. Carnegie launched his first public speaking course in 1912 at the YMCA in Harlem, New York!

Susan Cain writes that Mr. Carnegie was a self-help “Culture of Personality” guru, and I can understand why that is true.  As an emerging leader of methods that helped people compete, get jobs, keep up with the Joneses, they needed winning personalities.  I am also compelled to add that he was a very powerful proponent of the importance of  character.  His book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” was a user’s manual and the title fulfills its promise. However, if you carefully read his 30 Human Relations Principles, (the foundation for the book’s material) they speak to character. Here’s a sampling:

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.

Give honest, sincere appreciation.

Show genuine interest in others.

Respect the other person’s opinion.

Let the other person save face.

These principles are about humility, compassion and gratitude.  Mr. Carnegie never lost sight of his own small-town upbringing and the importance of building a reputation based on being humanitarian.  103 years later, his work is still teaching us about the importance of character and how to build the characteristics associated with likable personalities.

So, what does reputation hinge upon?  I’d say that we should follow Mr. Carnegie’s thinking:  we need to have likable personalities that grow through skill-development (such as communicating well, presenting ourselves with confidence, etc.) in order to compete in this “Culture of Personality.” We should also remember that the constancy and source of our humanity – the foundation our personalities are built upon, flows out of true character.