Over the past few years, much has been written about the subject of “leadership” and numerous workshops have been conducted on the subject. What is missed by many who aspire to be leaders is what I believe to be the single most important ingredient in becoming a leader. That ingredient is “credibility.”
If credibility is the key ingredient to becoming a successful leader, it might be wise to examine exactly what credibility is as well as how one gains and maintains credibility.
What is Credibility?
The word “credibility” and the word “credit” come from the same root word.
My wife and I are remodeling our home. In order to pay for the remodeling we had to secure a loan. The fact that we were able to get the loan means that we have “credit-ability.” The person who approved our loan had to believe two things: (1) that my wife and I are capable of repaying the loan and (2) that we will, in fact, repay it. That illustration in in-line with the way Webster’s Dictionary defines credibility which is “the ability to inspire belief.”
The Dimensions of Credibility
Credibility has two dimensions. The first dimension is trustworthiness and honesty and the second dimension is competence.
Dimension 1: Trustworthiness and Honesty
To be viewed as trustworthy, leaders must be consistent in their words and behaviors. Credibility has its roots in “walking their talk.” To be credible in action, leaders must be clear in their beliefs and they must know what they stand for. They must put their beliefs into action and their actions must be consistent with those beliefs. The leader must have a strong belief in what he/she says so that he/she can take a strong stand on the issue and back his/her promises with strong organizational performance.
To be viewed as honest, leaders are honest to the degree that it is reasonably possible to do so. Because of the confidential nature of some information, leaders may not be able to share everything with their followers, but they share the truth even if it may not be the whole truth. When they are asked a question regarding confidential information, they respond honestly that they cannot discuss the issue
Dimension 2: Competency
The demonstration of competency involves four actions:
Action 1: Have a vision
People follow people who know where they are going. Develop a vision that clearly paints a picture of where you are going. Let people know what that vision is; then believe in it more than anyone else does. This is extremely important because unless you believe in what you say, you cannot chart a path to its accomplishment. If you are not committed to the vision, then no one else in your organization will be.
Once you have the vision, craft a message that conveys its importance and urgency. Ensure that every decision made is consistent with the vision. Every decision needs to be examined in light of “how will this help us achieve our vision?”
Action 2: Communicate in a way that makes sense to people
Effective communication starts with the clarity and the passion with which you communicate. Get your employees to see the vision. People can only move to the point that they can see themselves accomplishing the vision. Followers must have goals, aspirations, and pictures in their minds in order to pursue the vision. Clarify expectations in terms of performance and behavior that will be needed to accomplish the vision.
Action 3: Equip the followers
Assess each employee to discover what they need to be able to fulfill performance expectations and then provide them with the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to accomplish the vision laid before them.
Action 4: Measure Performance and Provide Feedback
Evaluate performance against expectations to ensure there are no discrepancies between the two. Provide feedback. Recognize and encourage those who are fulfilling expectations and work with the others to eliminate the discrepancy between their performance and the expectations. The leader who fails to provide honest accurate feedback to followers is failing the first dimension of credibility – that of being trustworthy and honest. Followers want to know not only what they are to do, but how well they are performing.
People follow leaders whom they believe to be trustworthy and honest, who know where they are going, who know how to get there, and who can help them accomplish something meaningful.