This is a refreshed version of a post I wrote just over three years ago. I’m giving it another airing because, at its core, leadership is about change and exploring new territory. No leader can do that successfully without having earned the confidence of those s/he leads. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
I’ve been thinking about what it is that separates a person who seems to be able to influence change in a positive direction, from a person who might have the authority and the technical skill to do the work, but seems unable to pull it off.
The word credibility comes to mind. The Thesaurus suggests that credibility is synonymous with trustworthiness, integrity and sincerity. I think that if these basic values are present, the chances of arousing the interest and respect of other people are pretty good. And, I believe too, that change agents come in many forms, manifest themselves in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels.
Thinking about that reinforces for me, the notion that it is credibility not title, position, role or authority that makes the difference between an effective leader and an ineffective one.
So, if you are with me so far, the big question seems to be ” How do I prove my credibility to others?”
Here’s what I think it takes to earn credibility:
I do what I say I’m going to do… and I do it, when I say I’m going to do it.
Reliability is an important ingredient in establishing credibility.
There’s nothing more infuriating or counter-productive, than when someone makes a commitment to do something and then fails to follow through.
I represent myself honestly and do my best to be candid and open with my colleagues and bosses.
I think that to gain credibility with others we must simply find the courage and confidence to be ourselves and make our contributions without pretense or bravado.
I show that I’m open to learning and trying new things
Nothing puts holes in our credibility as a leader more than conveying the impression that we have all the answers. And, it is arrogant to think that we can influence change in others without feeling the need to change something ourselves.
Change is a learning experience in itself. If we believe that it is for everyone but us, we are likely not asking the right questions, enough questions, or paying attention to what is going on around us.
I demonstrate respect for the experiences and knowledge of others.
One of the best ways to build credibility is to observe those who have gone before us and learn from their experiences. If we want to be heard we must first listen.
When I challenge the status quo, I offer feasible and thoughtful alternatives.
To me, presenting a problem without considering a solution is not supporting change. It is simply complaining. This doesn’t mean that we have to have a solution for every problem. But if we want to earn credibility, we have to consider not only the problem, but also the possibilities and questions that will stimulate further exploration.
I own up to being human and making mistakes. And, when I make mistakes, I apologize and then do my best to make amends.
Making excuses for the mistakes we make is simply unproductive and, well, not very attractive either. In general, we do not adversely affect our credibility when we make mistakes. We adversely affect our credibility when we try to cover them up, rationalize them away, or otherwise pretend they didn’t happen.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?