Leadership Credibility: It Still Matters
One of the fundamental beliefs about leadership is that leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. Leadership credibility is a vital attribute in determining if team members will follow someone. Over the past 30 years, there has been plenty of research that consistently shows that the attributes people seek in leaders they are willing to follow are: honesty, competence, inspiration and the ability to be forward-looking. When viewed on a larger scale, these four traits create a richer meaning as the foundation for leadership.
What Is Leadership Credibility?
“Credit” and “credibility” come from the same root word: credo, meaning “I trust or believe.” Credibility must be earned over time. Some leaders earn it sooner than others, based upon the quality of their relationships. Others must prove their worthiness to be deemed credible, perhaps based on previously broken promises, or a lack of honesty, inspiration, or competence. Ultimately, credibility is determined by those who surround a leader. A leader who lacks the crucial ingredients mentioned earlier is one people are less likely to follow.
Leadership credibility comes when a leader possesses the ability to leave a long-lasting, positive impact on people’s lives. Consider whether you made an impact on others. Irwin Federman, venture capitalist and former CFO and CEO, spoke about leadership credibility when speaking to students at Santa Clara University:
“You don’t love someone because of who they are, you love them because of the way they make you feel. This axiom applies equally to a company setting. It may seem inappropriate to use words such as love and affection in relation to business. Conventional wisdom has it that management is not a popularity contest… I contend, however, that all things being equal, we will work harder and more effectively for people we like. And we will like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.”
And just how does leadership credibility make people feel? Research shows 10 descriptors used most often to describe a credible leader are:
A final thought: put yourself in the shoes of those you lead. How many of them would use these descriptors when sharing how you make them feel? What can you do to increase the frequency of leaving people feeling this way as a result of your leadership?