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Can Martha Get Her Credibility Back?

The domestic diva’s bad Friday had immediate consequences – Martha‘s no longer a CEO or board member of anything, and her company’s stock has gone to pot. The company’s flagship magazine, Martha Stewart Living, slashed circulation because of lagging consumer interest and skittish advertisers.

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Hard to judge what long-term consequences will evolve from this short-term fallout. Ultimately, Stewart’s failing empire depends on one thing – whether her credibility can be restored.

When you’ve lost your credibility, what are your chances of full recovery? In our research, when 2,300 executives were asked, “If a person were to lose credibility with you how difficult would it be to get it back?” 97 percent said it would be “very” difficult.

Why should Martha’s personal decisions about her stock portfolio matter to a consumer who just wants a prettier house? Because … there’s only one Martha, and she doesn’t get two reputations. No one does. Personal reputation is a beeline to one’s professional reputation. Leaders everywhere should heed this.

I think Martha’s glory days are over. If all the king’s horses and men couldn’t help Humpty Dumpty, I doubt a couple of miles of loyal consumers will restore the beleaguered empire of Martha Stewart. The organic gardening piece in a remote part of Connecticut might remain viable.

A great quote at the beginning of Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace, by Dennis and Michelle Reina, supports the fragility of a credible reputation: “The greater the loyalty and involvement, the greater the betrayal,” wrote author James Hillman.

So, I’ve weighed in. What’s your opinion? Can an executive’s credibility be restored? Will you be sleeping in Martha’s new line of bed sheets – the ones with the rickrack on the hem?

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