3 keys to building credibility as a leader

We hear a lot about credibility these days, particularly as it relates to our elected officials. It has even surfaced as we evaluate the results of our sporting events (e.g., deflated footballs, blown calls).

Credibility is the quality of being believable or worthy of trust. As a leader, it allows your employees to put their faith in you to make good decisions, communicate with transparency, and be a reliable source of information. It allows your peers and your manager to know that you are communicating without hidden agendas and that you have the organization’s best interests in mind.

To establish or enhance credibility, focus on the 3 Cs:

1. Competence

Results matter. When results are strong, you become more believable as a leader. Your reputation builds. You confidently exhibit the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform successfully.

When you are in a new role or take on a new challenge, you have to prove yourself. Your competence has not yet been demonstrated. It is essential to put in the time to learn the job and the effort to achieve results. Strive to make yourself (and your team) relevant, capable, and responsive.

Questions to ask yourself when building your competence:

  • Do I have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful in this role? How do I know?
  • Do I consistently execute and produce results? What are the measures of success?
  • Do I hold myself and/or others accountable for getting results?
  • Am I efficient and productive? Do I deliver in a timely fashion?
  • Are others convinced of my competence? How do I know?

2. Communication

How you communicate is important. What you say matters; how you say it matters even more. Our emotional and social skills (i.e., emotional intelligence) influence how we are perceived, how we express ourselves, and our ability to interact in an effective and meaningful way. There is a difference between our intentions and the impact of our communication.

Questions to ask yourself when building your communication skills:

  • Am I a good listener? Do I really take the time to understand someone’s message before jumping in with my own opinion?
  • How strong are my emotional intelligence skills?
  • What are my nonverbal behaviors, and how do they affect my message?
  • Am I able to adapt my message to address varied audiences?
  • Are those around me getting the information they need? How do I know?

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3. Character

Actions must align with words. When working with clients, I’ve heard it countless times over the years: “My leader talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.” Demonstrating character is about aligning words and actions. It is about being true to your values and demonstrating integrity. It’s about leading with authenticity. Authentic leaders instill trust because they don’t play political games and don’t have hidden agendas. They own up to mistakes and don’t place blame or make excuses.

Questions to ask yourself when examining your character:

  • Do my words and actions align?
  • Do I own up to my mistakes?
  • Do I deliver on my promises?
  • Am I value-driven?
  • Do I make decisions that are in the best interests of others and the organization (versus decisions that are self-serving)?

You can’t be successful as a leader without establishing credibility. It can take time to build it, and it can easily be destroyed by missteps. To enhance your leadership, be attentive to how your words, actions, and behaviors build (or possibly erode) your credibility.

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