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“If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.”

Do you think that is just a phrase that has nothing to do with leadership? Think again.

As I’m sure you are aware of, successful leadership consists of a complexity of different skills and behaviors. However, out of all the traits, credibility is widely considered the foundation of leadership.

Consider certain high-profile leaders who have exhibited questionable judgment, such as former BP chief executive Tony Hayward. When his credibility vanished, he was eventually forced to resign. And that’s just once example of a leader forced to quit after losing his or her credibility.

The truth is, once credibility is lost, it is difficult to restore.

A lapse in judgment here and there is understandable to a point. But when a leader constantly displays a lack of integrity, their ability to influence followers becomes diminished. No one wants to work for an unethical leader that displays destructive levels of narcissism. As a result, the workers will become disengaged and merely go through the motions at work or even quit their job.

Keep in mind, when a leader loses credibility it’s not always due to an intense public ordeal like the BP oil disaster. Sometimes leaders do find themselves in a tough spot, where they over-promised and now have to deal with the consequences.

This is why we can’t stress enough how essential it is for leaders to have effective communication skills because it goes a long way in gaining your direct reports’ trust.

When it comes down to it, competence and achieving the respect of others are lasting sources of power that enhances your credibility. Effective leaders rely primarily on these abilities to get things done.

As a leader, you can’t take a chance of losing credibility. So, it is important to reflect and ask yourself these questions: Do you frequently miss deadlines? Do you overpromise and under-deliver? Have you missed opportunities to be a role model for others? If any of these are true for you, notice the areas that are weaknesses and work to improve them.

If you have concerns about your own credibility, you need to identify ways to improve your up-front skills and work relationships. Focusing your efforts on a specific development plan and informing others about your progress may increase your effectiveness.

Here some tips to get you a head start:

  • Stay up-to-date on “best in class” practices. Benchmark against companies that are leaders in your industry. Look at firms that are leading in areas in which your company is trying to improve.
  • Gain familiarity with the core functions, systems, and processes of your organization. Determine how each function and core process adds value to the organization. Know who to call in each function when you need information.
  • Read articles and books to help you improve, and take any available workshops or courses in your targeted areas. · Adjust your leadership style to meet the needs of different individuals and teams.
  • Work through conflicts to create win/win results. Your credibility increases when you openly address and resolve conflict.

Credible leaders live by their word. So, strive to tell the truth and always clearly state the facts to your employees. In other words, learn how to walk the talk.

Why do you think credibility is an important leadership quality?