Whether we lead a team, contribute individually or collaborate with colleagues, our leadership influence depends on how others see us. If we want to grow our career and help others reach their career goals, we need to not only be strong role models but also leaders who demonstrate care for the people we connect with along the way.
No matter the industry, no matter our particular role, leaders must demonstrate that they are the “real thing”. One leader I worked with had a manager who kept changing his mind and was never clear about what he wanted the young leader to focus on. As a result the young leader was a disengaged leader ready to jump ship as soon as he could find another job. Things could have been different if only the manager realized the importance of being a credible leader and role model.
What does it mean to be a credible leader? What characteristics or behaviors contribute to our leadership credibility?
Here are seven indisputable leadership credibility factors:
1. IF YOU SAY YOU WILL DO IT, THEN DO IT
Have you ever had a boss or a co-worker who promised to take action and ended up missing deadlines or not completing their part of the project? No one will believe anything we say if we don’t follow through on our words. It’s better to share the bad news upfront, then wait to the end and not deliver. If you commit to helping someone out, then make it happen.
2. PUT TRUST ON THE TOP OF YOUR LIST
If you want others to trust you, then you must be trustworthy. Don’t betray confidences. Don’t throw team members under the bus to cover up a mistake you made. Admit an error, apologize and find ways to correct it. Share a part of yourself that shows how you spend time outside of work. Display your humanity.
3. LISTEN FOR THE REAL MESSAGE
When we listen completely to hear the underlying message, we are building up our credibility.
- Try not to interrupt to hear the complete story
- Give the other person full focus and attention
- Ask meaningful and relevant questions
- Dig deeper to identify the real issues
4. BE HONEST WHEN SHARING FEEDBACK
Credible leaders share honest feedback with others even if they are delivering “not so great” news. When we are truthful in a constructive and respectful way, we become believable. If we always agree and sugarcoat the truth our opinions will not be highly valued. So prepare your thoughts with preciseness and share them with non-judgmental language and attitudes. Stay clear of “always” and “never”. Present specific and descriptive behaviors.
5. LET OTHERS KNOW THEY MATTER
Just as you want to feel valued, so do your team members and colleagues. We become more credible leaders when people see their work is appreciated. One team member I worked with felt her boss was being overly critical of her deliverables. She wasn’t feeling that she was an important part of the team. Tell others what a great job they are doing or how impressed you were that they were able to overcome a challenge.
6. LET YOUR HUMILITY OUT
Be humble in how you come across so others will want to work with you.
- Instead of boasting, share a discovery with fascination
- Instead of accusing, model accountability for a misstep
- Instead of yelling, communicate with respect
- Instead of focusing on you, focus on others
7. SHARE STORIES OF VULNERABILITY
Storytelling and leadership go hand-in-hand if the stories we share display our human side. Become a credible leader by exposing how you faced a weakness or blind spot. Putting ourselves at the center of a fumble can forge a very deep connection.
How have you grown your leadership credibility? What factors do you feel are critical?