What do George Bailey and you have in common . . .

Posted on May 17, 2012


NOTE: The following article was original posted on May 16th in the Remarkable Leaders Blog under the heading “Life is no longer sweet in the executive suite and its impact on your career (Part 2 of 2).”

Nido Qubein, who wrote my introduction to Customize Your Career, SAID: “If you want to have success and significance—in business and in life—choose to be a person of value” . . . Nido equates value with personal power.

The first and most important thing to remember when it comes to being remarkable is that it is in reality a call to harnessing your personal power.

It is your brand, it is your signature, it is the mark you leave on the lives of those with whom you come into contact on a day-in-day-out basis.

The most amazing attribute about being remarkable is the fact that it is achieved through the everyday unremarkable things that you do which reflect who you are and what you stand for. In essence, to be truly remarkable, you have to live your values through the sometimes small and seemingly innocuous actions that support and inspire those around you.

It’s A Wonderful Life! We all remember this movie with great fondness. In fact, it has become a timeless classic which airs every Christmas and has become an enduring example of how little things mean a great deal in terms of being remarkable.

Take George Bailey. While he aspired to doing great things from traveling the world to building big cities, it was his daily contributions that made a difference in the lives of those who lived with him in Bedford Falls.

Sadly, and like most of us, George equated being remarkable with living big and living grand when, in reality, it is the things we do every day that really count. He didn’t recognize what was remarkable about him, and as a result he counted himself a failure. That is until those whose lives he touched came forward to help him in his time of need.

Of course real life isn’t the movies, and as such you cannot rely solely on others to herald your contributions. The reality today is that we are all so caught up in our own agenda and the demands of the day that we become too preoccupied to look outside of our own world. It’s up to you to give yourself the credit for your perseverance, discipline and commitment it took to make something happen. It’s up to you to celebrate your own successes and become your best PR (public relations) manager.

In this context of reality, you must realize that while you are being judged by the last experience someone had with you, you do have to take responsibility for being noticed. In other words you must manage the perception of your brand.


One of the most important ways to manage the perception of your brand is by being consistent.

As exemplified by George Bailey, what you saw is what you got!

I see executives who treat their colleagues one way, their direct reports another way and their senior leadership completely differently. Have you ever worked with someone like that? People who do this are sometimes described as being good at “managing up” but it is rarely a compliment. What they are really doing is damaging their brand.

When someone observes you treating someone else differently, the first seed of mistrust is sewn. They immediately start to wonder which one is the real you. You quickly become a brand they cannot trust. And you can’t build loyalty without trust.


Always honor your authentic brand, but you must manage the experiences others have of you. Being inclusive and recognizing the contributions of others go a long way toward building loyalty and trust.

Even though good old George Bailey may have at times lamented his responsibility for the Bailey Building and Loan Association, he was always mindful of its importance to the people of Bedford Falls. Because of this he became an invaluable member of the community.

The best approach is to be your best with everyone, even on the days when you don’t feel like it. Anyone who has ever worked with an erratic boss or colleague knows that when someone is unpredictable, his or her brand is diluted. Their behavior on a bad day chips away at the brand they may have been building on their good days.

Treat everyone with respect. Manage up, sideways and down. You never know who will find themselves in a position to promote or defend your brand in the future. Additionally, you never know who will be your next boss! If you treat others better than they ever expected, your brand will be strengthened – like a good cup of coffee.


In the last year, I have had the privilege to work with the Four Seasons Hotel. I always wondered what made this chain so successful. It didn’t take long to find out once I learned more about their leader, Isadore (Issie) Sharp. He launched his company, The Four Seasons, in 1961 with a 125-room motor hotel in Toronto. Today, there are 140 hotels in more than 40 countries. His chain is considered the most profitable as well as the highest rated luxury hotels in the world.

When asked the reason for the success of the Four Seasons, Issie Sharp was quoted as saying that his culture is simply based on the golden rule – “to treat others as you wish to be treated” He said, “A lot of companies talk about having a culture, but we knew we had to walk the talk if we expected it to thrive in our hotels.”

George Bailey also lived by this “golden rule,” as demonstrated by his ability to avert a disastrous run on the bank by putting up his own money to help others in need. In the process he created an atmosphere of contagious cooperation and mutual consideration and respect.


While it took Clarence to help George to see just how important and therefore remarkable he was to his community of Bedford Falls, you don’t have to wait for your guardian angel to descend from above to show you.

Considering the above points, ask yourself in whose life have you made a difference today, and in the past weeks, and perhaps even the past years.

When you do this, you will discover your value and what makes you remarkable.