What with the recent slew of allegations around Savillegate (and the numerous other stars who’ve faced a barrage of less than savoury attention ), something has been preying on my mind- is a spotless reputation an attainable goal anymore? Eric Schmidt once said that “Now that information is ubiquitous, the obligation changes. It’s no longer okay to not know.” Is it possible to be a hero in the Now Economy?
It’s a pertinent question not just for celebs, but for CEOs. It’s extremely unlikely that anyone is going to be able to run a high-profile career any longer without coming in for some flack. One would hope there aren’t too many CEOs involved in lascivious activities with the young or infirm (though I could probably tell you a few stories), but everyone has a skeleton or two to worry about.
It struck me, however, that the secret of attaining hero status in the Now Economy has to do with accepting this fact, and incorporating the less positive aspects of your persona into your legend. Steve Jobs, arguably the ultimate modern business hero, was allegedly something of a difficult character to be around, and stories about his less than civil treatment of employees and collaborators are rife. However, rather than working to suppress this, those in charge of Jobs’s reputation managed to incorporate his flaws into a highly individual ‘flawed genius’ reputation, which has gone on to propel him further into the realms of myth than he might otherwise have found himself.
There are others: Michael O’Leary, whose insensitivity and an outlook some might call backward have ended up propelling him into the prepared statement hall of fame, arguably even Branson, business celeb among business celebs, wisely took qualities which some would consider arrogant and turned them to his advantage. The ultimate political star of the Now Economy, Boris Johnson, has taken clumsiness and a gift for the gaffe and turned them into art forms.
Consider, then, when building your personal brand for the first time, that streamlining and suppressing no longer work, no matter how savvy you may be. Many negative traits can be forgiven and even idealised by the public if properly balanced with your work and your motivating passions- though possibly not if you’ve been sneaking into hospitals after hours. Then you might still be best place to keep schtum and pray.