This guest post is from the General Leadership Blog, a blog that offers leadership perspective and conversation on character and integrity from senior military leaders.
Credibility is arguably one of the more important soft skills a leader must possess. It encompasses so many of the harder skills that if you make your credibility a priority as a leader – both up and down – you will be the most effective leader for your team.
So how does a new leader get credibility and more important, how do you keep from losing it?
First, answer this question: Do you have credibility with your team AND with your leadership?
Too often leaders of little inherent credibility seem to focus on pleasing those above them at the expense of the people on their team. Great leaders know that they must establish and keep their credibility upward and downward to achieve maximum results.
I have often held to the tenant that, as a leader, my job is to shelter my team from leadership. While this is/was true and earned me credibility with my team, there is a component to that philosophy that could become detrimental, if I’m not careful. If all I do is protect the team from leadership without being cognizant of my credibility with leadership, then I might act unwisely and lose the credibility with the leadership. In the end, I could cause the team to be alienated from the leadership.
So what factors are most important for a leader to gain and keep his/her credibility both up and down the ladder?
Telling the truth is a given. I observe many leaders who can tell the truth about certain facts, but when it comes to themselves they seem to slip into a grey zone where they embellish things to make themselves look better. Does your vision for your team and where they need to go lack a level of reality that causes you to lose credibility? Often leaders feel pressure to perform, so they begin altering their team vision with the hopes of forcing results. As Maxwell stated, that costs you your credibility tomorrow. You must be honest with your team and with your leadership. A critical area for being honest and enhancing your credibility is admitting you don’t know it all.
Be confident enough to admit you don’t have the answers. Usually your team knows and your leadership knows the same. It’s tough to fool people for long. And even though your insides are screaming at you that people must think you have all the answers, when you can admit you don’t have them, you not only will feel better but you will gain credibility for being honest.
Accountability and Responsibility
Those are two very different topics. Are you held accountable for your actions and your team’s actions/results? Do you have proper responsibility to achieve the results for which you are being held accountable? Same goes for your team. Do you hold people accountable for results? As a leader, if you don’t hold your team accountable for their results/actions, you will lose credibility. Likewise, ensure that your team has the proper responsibilities to achieve the performance for which you intend to hold them accountable.
Do you treat your team as well as you treat leadership? Often as leaders, we are tempted to treat those above us with more respect then those under our leadership. Respecting our team for who they are (do you KNOW your team?) and not just for what they can accomplish or for what they actually did is critical. Not that you should accept mediocre results or stop pushing your team to achieve more, but you should treat all people with the respect they deserve. Too often today we respect people for what they can do rather than simply for who they are.
Results are what matters. Teams and leaders are judged on their ability to deliver on the mission. Leaders gain credibility with their teams and with leadership when they deliver results. The desired results are sometimes the same but they can also differ. As leaders, we have to know the difference for each and frankly, deliver to both.
When honesty, accountability and respect are a part of our personal leadership portfolio, we find ourselves as leaders of teams that get results. That brings a level of credibility that like compound interest just keeps making the pile bigger!
General Leadership is privately operated blog and is designed to provide leadership perspective and conversation on character and integrity from senior military leaders, who have led large scale, complex change under some of the most demanding and challenging conditions imaginable. Check out the blog to gain a unique perspective and valuable insight from tested leaders.