When a leader in business is considered “credible,” we typically see them as someone who we can trust, respect and understand, and as a result we are generally willing to be influenced by them in some way. Leadership credibility creates the foundation for our leadership actions and behaviors. As leaders with credibility, we are able to influence, inspire and generate collaboration. Without real credibility, we find ourselves facing resistance, mistrust and lack of support from others for our initiatives.
Many leaders attribute lack of support to office politics, difficult colleagues and poor business conditions. While it may be true that there are organizational challenges, it’s helpful to consider how your leadership credibility fits into the picture. Thus, it behooves leaders to step back and assess their level of credibility. By doing so, you can strengthen your capacity to influence others and achieve your goals.
Often, leaders unconsciously and unknowingly sabotage their own credibility in their work. In a recent conversation with a client – a leader in a global technology company – we were discussing his credibility. He said, “I’ve earned it from my people. They see me as credible. After all, I helped us through our recent re-structure. That feels like it’s enough to make me credible.” The truth was, it wasn’t enough. People in the company are in fact struggling with the change and have not returned to their previous level of productivity and begun achieving new results. I challenged my client to consider what else his team, colleagues and management needs from him now so they can continue seeing him as credible in his new leadership role.
As I went deeper into the coaching conversation with John*, we identified a few ways he was actually sabotaging his leadership credibility. We discussed:
1. Assuming a Level of Credibility That Doesn’t Exist
John assumed that he had earned an adequate level of credibility and no further action was required. This limited view kept him from seeing that further actions were needed with his team and colleagues. We identified communication that needed to happen along with a series of meetings to re-build engagement, trust and motivation within his team. By keeping the communication open – seeking to understand and be understood – he opened the door to increased credibility.
2. Lose Focus on Your Team’s Results and Forward Action
In the midst of change, John lost focus on helping his team create results and move forward with their projects. The change initiative overtook the other projects people were working on (a common occurrence) and they became de-motivated and disengaged. John had little time to coach his team, so they started to see him as someone who didn’t really care about them and was too busy “with management stuff.” While this is absolutely not what John thought, his lack of focus on their results weakened his credibility with them.
3. Failing to Understand Key Stakeholders Concerns
When John was busy with the restructure, he had little time to meet with his key stakeholders; he was primarily focused on getting his own team through the change. Unfortunately, he lost opportunities to understand their goals, challenges and key learnings that would have proved beneficial as he rolled out the new structure. One of the executives told him, “You just don’t have time for me these days. I understand how busy you are, but we need to get together soon.” John initially ignored this request (he considered it more of a social gesture) but later scheduled a series of meetings with key stakeholders to better understand them and align their work. This strengthened the perception of him as a leader who had the big picture in mind, which will help boost his credibility in the future.
As you can see, John was working hard to make the restructure successful for his team and the organization. However, unconsciously he was actually sabotaging his own leadership credibility by assuming his own credibility, losing focus on his team and failing to understand his key stakeholders.
Are you unknowingly sabotaging your own leadership credibility?
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*Name changed to maintain confidentiality.