Credibility as a Requisite for Effective Leadership
I sat in the conference room with great decor and taking in the smell of the newly painted room, as the School Headteacher began to speak. “This is the most important initiative you are working on,” he said.
He was right — the school had been graded ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted in the last inspection and had to improve to at least a ‘Good’ grading in the next inspection. It had also embarked on a large building project that had massively impacted its finances, so it needed to find ways to achieve high outcomes on a reduced budget.
But as I looked around the room I saw mostly blank, unenthusiastic faces, with some raised eyebrows. After the meeting, I walked out of the room and caught up with some managers, who jokingly repeated “the most important initiative” to one another. When I asked one of them why people didn’t take the phrase seriously, I received a interesting response: “We’ve heard him and other senior leaders say that so many times in the past 18 months.”
The school headteacher and senior leaders had lost credibility with their employees, such that even when necessary changes were required, it was met with skepticism and resistance. This highlights an important reality: People will not believe a message that calls for change if they don’t believe and trust the messenger.
What is Leadership Credibility?
Merriam Webster defines credibility as the following:
“The quality or power of inspiring belief or being accepted as trustworthy, real, or honest”.
Establishing Leadership credibility must start first with Personal Credibility, which is about trust, respect, and being believable and this is especially important for managers.
Personal credibility is about how others see you as a manager or leader leading your team in the organisation.
Foresight is not possible in difficult circumstances – once the inner doubts start the little voice in the head saying ‘Am I really any good?’ Leaders need to develop awareness of their own inner narrative and start to change it , so that the little voice says ‘Damn, I was good!’ ‘I can do this!’
No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in you!
How to Build Leadership Credibility
Some useful recommendations for building leadership credibility include the following:
- Encourage regular 360 degree feedback between you, your employees and customers.
- Be honest with your team. When you get it wrong, take ownership. Be human!
- Don’t be ‘Jack of all trade’. Avoid doing everything, learn to delegate and give others an opportunity to learn, grow and shine.
- Avoid focusing on peoples mistakes or failures, instead support them to reflect, learn from their mistakes and develop new strategies or initiatives.
The important thing is ensure that you all learn from the process.
Credible leadership begins when you establish high Emotional Intelligence in yourself and your team members and others in the organisation. This will help you to build trust with others in your organisation.
When trust fails, leaders fail!
When trust fails, it does not matter how effective a leader is in his or her communication style, your ability to motivate others, or your overall leadership style. All of these other strengths are irrelevant when a leader is viewed as no longer trustworthy.
Trust is also established when you act in a way that promotes respect and when you honour your word.
Impact of Poor Leadership
A few times, I have seen poor leadership behaviours being tolerated as long as business goals were achieved. This is a quick way for leaders and managers to lose credibility and the workforce become disengaged, as they feel “what’s the point?”.
Walk Your Talk
Inconsistency between what a leader says, their expectation of others and what they do themselves undermines the trust of team members.
Leaders who speak the right words but don’t demonstrate it, lose credibility, as they question future actions and words of the leader and trust is damaged.
If you don't lead by example - if you "talk the walk but don't walk the talk" - you'll alienate more than motivate.
Don't Avoid Tough Decisions
Have you ever experienced feeling powerless, disregarded, unimportant, disliked or like a fraud?
Have you ever experienced the derailment of a project, or initiative due to poor leadership behaviours and anxiety?
I have seen some leaders became absent physically and struggle to make decisions when under pressure. This happens as the emotional centres in the brain becomes activated and overshadows the thinking brain.
It's easy to manage when things are going great, but not so simple when you face tough decisions.
Learn to manage your emotions to enable you stay calm under pressure.
Employees respond well to consistent behaviour from their management. In an uncertain world, people understandably like things they can depend on. If they can count on you, it means people believe what you say and you're credible in their sight.
When leaders lose or don’t have credibility, their ability to inspire and motivate is diminished and morale is inevitably low. Team members start to feel disenchanted and refuse to go the extra mile as they feel that they are not valued.
Credibility builds trust and it's a vital element of Effective Leadership
Honest, competent, inspiring, and forward-looking are the essential characteristics people want in a leader, someone whose direction they would willingly follow.
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