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Seriously, why is it that someone or some group should trust you to lead?
Because of your title? Hardly. The most fleeting of all sources of a leader’s power is title. Sure, it confers authority, but leaders who depend solely upon authority as their source of power are effectively bankrupt. They may provoke grudging compliance, but they fail to inspire people to work at their creative best.
Because of your experience? Not really. People operate in the present with eyes on the future. Your past is some dusty old story that no one but you can relate to.
The real currency of a leader is trust conferred due to credibility earned.
I’ve encountered more than a few people in leadership roles over time who neglected to understand the hard work and personal commitment required to earn credibility in the eyes of their team members.
When Rich and I wrote Practical Lessons in Leadership, the issue of credibility was ever-present when interviewing people on what makes an effective leader.
In subsequent years working with thousands of professionals in workshops, courses and programs, the message is the same: trust is earned and the personal credibility of the leader is the gold standard required for us to give our trust to someone in a leadership role.
Distilled from the workshops and courses:
Five Big Credibility Killers:
1. Micromanaging. This destructive, suffocating tactic showcases your insecurities and announces for all the world to see that you don’t trust people.
2. Saying one thing and doing another. When the “do of the leader doesn’t match the tell,” credibility is thrown out the window.
3. Leading with double-standards. There is no ambiguity around the concept of accountability, but when you create multiple sets of rules, you shove accountability right out the door.
4. Putting yourself ahead of everyone else. We all see it and it is reprehensible. Leaders eat last.
5. Ignoring our needs for feedback and professional development support. Almost universally, people want to grow professionally, improve and chase aspirations. Ignore these needs and you are effectively devaluing people as professionals and as individuals who care.
The input on building credibility as a leader:
Five Big Credibility Builders:
1. Giving trust first. Instead of requiring your team members to earn your trust, treating people as if they are capable and trustworthy takes courage, but the payment in return is appreciation and mutual trust. Give us the room we need to make mistakes, to learn and ultimately to succeed, and we’ll repay your trust in kind.
2. Standing for something and living up to it. Values, principles, whatever you want to label them, people want to know what you stand for and they want you to prove it. Accountability starts at home and spreads across the team.
3. Placing the team before self. Show us that you’re working hard to help us succeed and we’ll reward you in kind with our commitment to your success.
4. Having the courage to help us. Your frank feedback and your support for our growth show us that you are worthy of our trust and commitment. And there are few acts that will engender loyalty more than helping us reach towards our goals.
5. Having the courage to protect us. There are a good number of reasons why it’s not in your best interest to stand strong in the face of adversity. Show that we come first and that you’re willing to take a corporate bullet for us and we’ll follow you anywhere.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
The words on what makes a leader credible change from session to session, but the themes remain the same. Selflessness, serving, holding yourself and the rest of us accountable for our actions and performance and helping us grow as professionals, are all essential behaviors for any leader aspiring to be credible in the eyes of the team.
So, why should your team trust YOU to lead?
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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.