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Building Credibility

Credibility is not just an asset—it is an absolute imperative for influential leadership. The people you hope to lead will either filter you out or force you out otherwise. Credibility is believability, trustworthiness. It is built on a combination of characteristics that define your person and professional life. It is based on how you are perceived. Perceptions are what people feel, see, and think. Your actions and words drive people’s attitudes about you. Every personal and professional interaction is an opportunity to develop your credibility.Since it is vital, developing credibility must be a priority in our personal and professional development. To start the process, let’s first consider the top credibility killers. Brent Gleeson, a former Navy Seal and now successful business leadership consultant, lists these:

  • Poor professional image. It’s vital to respect the culture where you work and serve.

  • Gossip. It makes you look immature and not fit to lead.

  • Overly aggressive or overly passive style. You either come across controlling and disrespectful, or as weak or disengaged.

  • Profanity. You appear uneducated and coarse.

  • Tastelessness. Questionable speech and behavior is always noticed, and those who you need to influence won’t find it amusing.

  • Unethical, immoral associates. You are who you are with.

Think about it. The people who have no or little credibility with you have one or more of these characteristics, don’t they? Research shows that only 49% of employees trust their senior management, and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information. Only 49% 0f employees would actually recommend others to work for their boss. This is alarming. You can’t afford to have it be true of you. You want to be a credible leader, one who walks the talk, whose actions speak louder than your words, who delivers what you promise. How do you get there?It’s a matter of habit and lifestyle. You don’t become credible overnight. Credibility, like reputation, is built over time. Whether you are a new leader, looking to get some “cred” to bolster your leadership, or whether you are a leader who has lost some of your credibility, you can move the meter up. You do it by establishing habits that you practice every day of the week.Credible leaders are respectful. They don’t insult, manipulate, or humiliate. They don’t do it publicly, and they don’t do it privately, either. They treat others with the kind of respect they desire to receive. Remember, a leader is never respected because of his or her power; a leader is respected by the right use of their power. Don’t expect to receive more respect than you give.Credible leaders are honest. They do not have hidden agendas. They are transparent with their own actions, and foster an honest environment where dishonesty, manipulation, and secrets are not tolerated.Credible leaders are educated. It may not be always be in formal degrees, but they are voracious learners, continually seeking to expand their knowledge base and expertise. They know they need to be aware of new trends and be flexible and learning in order to continue to lead.Credible leaders are competent and capable. They actually LEAD. They go first. They have more than a basic understanding of their field. They are experts in their arena, and always have multiple options. They are not content to achieve what is required. They want to do more.Credible leaders are accountable. They are not blamers or lone rangers. They take full responsibility for their actions and decisions. They quickly recognize and own when they make a mistake, and do everything possible to correct it. One of the BIG credibility destroyers is making excuses, or letting your team bear the responsibility of fixing your mistakes. Even worse, if they take the blame for your mistakes, credibility is gone.Credible leaders are loyal. While they stay true to themselves, these leaders look out for the interests of others. They are supportive and truly care about others. They engender loyalty in others, because people know that they have a loyal friend. Your loyalty will go a long, long way.Credible leaders trust. They are confident about the abilities of the people around them. They know that people become more engaged and committed when they are trusted, so they delegate effectively, and follow-up with encouragement and support. You cannot prove your trust by words. You need to take the risk and put yourself in situations where trust is actually required. That gives your “followers” a chance to believe in themselves and in you.Credible leaders have focused goals. People only believe in and follow leaders who know where they are going. Without a destination, you are only a wanderer, and no one wants to follow that. These credible leaders remained focused on their goals and formulating strategies to reach them.Credible leaders act more than they speak. Leaders who lack credibility try to win the hearts of people by speeches and skilled communications. They think flash and dash will get a following. It may attract attention, but a leader can only gain credibility by getting her hands dirty.Credible leaders are consistent. This is most important in demeanor. A leader must have consistent moods. Credibility is destroyed when a team has to figure out at the start of every day the mental state of their boss.Credible leaders are confident. People who suffer with the “imposter syndrome”. continually doubting themselves and that they have what it takes to be where they are, don’t inspire the trust of others. Of course, ¾’s of us will experience that at one time or another. Credible leaders face their fears, and repeatedly do the thing that frightens them most. They eventually get to the place where they realize they CAN lead, they CAN do well—and their self-confidence boosts their credibility.When you think about it, confidence actually IS credibility. When you know yourself well, you live up to the high standards in all situations and you know it, you will be on the way to the credibility you need and desire.

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