Dishonesty, and the hubris that may accompany it, erodes trust, undermines relationships, and breeds cynicism. It may even cost billions of dollars, as in the case of so many corporate scandals. When dishonesty is exhibited by our leaders, it typically has corrosive and costly effects, and can cause people to withdraw or disengage. Public disclosure of wrongdoing, whether about an individual or an institution, provides each of us with an opportunity to step back and examine our own behavior, as well as our motivations/intentions. James Kouzes and Barry Posner conducted research into what makes great leaders (Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, and Why People Demand It, 1993). Not surprisingly, they found that credibility was at the top of the list.
What is credibility? Leadership credibility is a quality or characteristic that enables staff to view the leader as a trustworthy resource for information and decision making. It is a quality that results from a constellation of positive behaviors like:
- Lifting people’s spirits
- Leading by example
- Paying attention
- Participating directly in the process of getting extraordinary things done
Research shows that leader credibility has significant positive effects on staff. And, it does not just have a positive impact on staff relations. It can also affect vendor, customer, and investor relations. But credibility isn’t something that comes with a title or seniority. It is earned.
So, what can leaders do? Here are some specific behaviors that can contribute positively to a leader’s credibility.
- Strive to be scrupulously fair and even-handed in all your interactions.
- Hold yourself to the same high standards to which you hold your staff and others.
- Be accountable for your decisions and your actions.
- Follow through when you say you are going to do something, no matter how seemingly “small” the issue.
- Make sure your behavior is consistent.
- Unfailingly demonstrate trust. Trust is demonstrated when you delegate responsibility and show confidence in your staff’s ability to execute their job responsibilities safely, compliantly and competently.
Quite simply, if staff don’t believe the messenger, they won’t believe the message. Have you checked your
credibility quotient today?