Building and Sustaining the Credibility to Lead
By Chris Amisano
Building credibility is one of the hardest and most continuous tasks a leader faces. Every action you take can make or break your credibility. Why is building credibility so difficult? It could be that you find yourself in a new leadership position or in a new organization. Plus, the organizational environment changes constantly, and you must find ways to reinvent yourself as a leader in order to keep teams interested and moving toward their goals. So, what are the competencies and actions that can help build and maintain leadership credibility?
One of the first competencies is the combination of execution, planning, and consistency. Obviously, what leaders do must be well planned. Projects, strategies, interactions with teams, and “obstacle moving” must be logical, methodical, and with the organization’s overall mission and strategy in mind. But if planning is the least exceptional action, a leader could be leaving his or her team high and dry — and creating big problems for credibility. The execution of any plan must be carried out with drill-sergeant precision, or you run the risk of losing the team’s commitment — and their ability to trust you. But the most important part about execution is that a leader must be consistent every time. With this consistency, you can build credibility and create leadership that is able to sustain itself in the long term.
With consistency in mind, the way you make decisions is also a credibility builder, and a leader should do this using his or her values. First, you have to determine your core values, knowing that honesty, integrity, and straightforwardness must be at the top of the list. But it goes further than simply knowing core values; you must act on them every time you make decisions. Your teams will be watching and will begin to judge their own decision-making skills by the values you live. This leadership by example shows not only what you stand for, but it shows your teams also the way to move forward and become leaders in their own right.
Building credibility is difficult because of the concept that everyone is watching. Look at our political and social leaders — one slip-up, and, suddenly, all of the world’s problems are their fault. With that kind of responsibility, leaders not only have to make value-based decisions consistently, but they also have to make sure that they deliver on every promise, every time. It’s easy to say that you will do something or move an obstacle or change a process — but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into beforehand. When you examine promises this way, the follow-through is easier — and that’s a mountain-sized credibility builder.
As you move teams forward with consistency, execution, and follow-through, it’s important to remember why you’re a leader in the first place. You lead to help the organization and its associates achieve their goals and missions. From this perspective, another way to build credibility is to understand the organization’s mission and do everything you can to help people achieve it. It’s not about telling the organization what you can do for it — you must show the organization’s teams how all of you can achieve goals together through strategy, teamwork, values, and execution. In this same way, leaders should be learners at all stages of the game. Take the time to learn more about the organization every day, more about what makes it “tick,” what makes it move forward, and what obstacles could keep it from growing. When you commit to this type of learning, you become a student of credibility. If an obstacle blocks the path, you will have the know-how and the tools to move it out of the way. You will be able to act consistently in every action, every day, and keep the team moving forward to the next goal.
Finally, building credibility requires you to remember that you can’t do it alone. There’s no point in building a team if you’re going to keep them in the background. The leader’s job is to build a team and help them keep up. When you let your teams know that they are moving with you, you can solidify your credibility and move the organization closer to achieving its goals.