A lack of realism in the vision today costs credibility tomorrow.
John C. Maxwell
Credibility is arguably one of the more important soft skills a leader must possess. It encompasses so many of the harder skills that if you make your credibility a priority as a leader – both up and down – you will be the most effective leader for your team. Last month we talked about experience (link) and how critical multiple experiences make for a more effective leader. We mentioned that credibility was something we would write on this month. And so, as we said, here we are writing about credibility. (Good first step towards earning credibility – doing what you say you will do). So how does a leader get credibility and more importantly, how do you keep from losing it.
If you are a leader right now as you read this – I ask you this question: do you have credibility with your team AND with your Leadership? Often times those of us not in leadership roles find ourselves serving under people that Leadership thinks is awesome but from an effects based perspective those of us on the team are all scratching our heads. Too often leaders of little inherent credibility seem to focus on pleasing those above them at the expense of those on their team. Great leaders know they must establish and keep their credibility upward and downward to achieve maximum results. I have often held to the tenant that, as a leader, my job was to protect my team from Leadership. While this is/was true, and earned me credibility with my team there was a component to that philosophy that if not careful could become detrimental. If all I do is protect the team from Leadership and not ensure that I am cognizant of my credibility with Leadership then I might act unwisely and in the end cause the team to be alienated from Leadership because I lost credibility.
So what factors are most important for a leader to gain and keep his/her credibility both up and down the ladder?
Telling the truth is a given. I observe many leaders that can tell the truth about certain facts – but when it comes to themselves they seem to slip into a grey zone where they embellish things to make themselves look better. Does your vision for your team and where they need to go lack a level of reality that causes you to lose credibility? Often leaders feel pressure to perform and so they begin altering their team vision with the hopes of forcing results. As Maxwell stated, this costs you your credibility tomorrow. You must be honest with your team and with your Leadership. A critical area for being honest and enhancing your credibility is admitting you don’t know it all.
Great leaders know that they don’t know it all.
Be confident enough to admit you don’t have the answers. Usually your team knows and your Leadership knows the same. It’s tough to fool people for long. And even though your insides are screaming at you that people must think you have all the answers, when you can admit you don’t have them you not only will feel better but you will gain credibility for being honest.
Accountability and Responsibility. Two very different topics. Are you held accountable for your actions and your team’s actions/results? Do you have proper responsibility to achieve the results you are being held accountable for? Same goes for your team. Do you hold people accountable for results? As a leader, if you don’t hold your team accountable for their results/actions you will lose credibility. Holding people accountable is tough but critical for us to maintain credibility. Likewise, ensure that your team has the proper responsibilities to achieve the performance for which you intend to hold them accountable.
Do you treat your team as well as you treat Leadership? Often as leaders, we are tempted to treat those above us with more respect then those under our leadership. Respecting our team for who they are (do you KNOW your team?) and not just for what they can accomplish or for what they actually did is critical. Not that you accept mediocre results or don’t push your team to achieve more but treating all people with the respect they are due is key to earning credibility. Too often today we respect people for what they can do rather than simply for who they are!
Results are what matters. Teams and leaders are judged on their ability to deliver on the mission. Leaders gain credibility with their teams and with Leadership when they deliver results. The results are sometimes the same but sometimes different for Leadership and for our teams. As leaders we have to know the difference for each and frankly, deliver to both. When honesty, accountability, and respect are a part of our personal leadership portfolio we find ourselves as leaders of teams that get results. That brings a level of credibility that like compound interest just keeps making the pile bigger!
What else drives credibility for leaders? Sound off! We would love to hear from you.