Previously, I wrote about four areas for leadership focus. In this post, I’m focusing on establishing your credibility.
Over the past century or two, the expectations of what a leader is and does has shifted and that applies to how leaders established credibility. Used to be that a leader was credible if he was “large and in charge” as set forth in the Great Man Theory. To establish credibility in previous centuries, an individual (usually male) needed to dynamically leave his mark on the world through personal power, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom. From the top, down, he directed, commanded, provided answers, intimidated, kicked butt and took names, and was always deferred to by everyone else. In short, the leader sat atop the pyramid in a hierarchical paradigm borrowed from the military.
Today, a shift has and is still occurring that is questioning the heavy reliance not only on top-down hierarchy but also the traditional tough-guy leadership traits that formerly formed the basis of a leader’s credibility. Sure. In a crisis, expediency and taking charge can pay off. You absolutely want a leader who can take control of the situation and go into command-and-control mode to alleviate a big threat quickly. Yet on a day-to-day, non-crisis basis, the credible leader of the 21st century is one who enlists others to follow through competence, transparency, inspiration, and being forward-looking.
How are you reflecting these 21st century aspects of credibility?
In the past and for today’s leader, a large component of credibility comes from being competent. Competence is being qualified for the job. It comes from knowing your stuff and being intelligent enough to ask the right questions if you don’t. Increasingly, the competent 21st century leader is also emotionally competent, meaning he is aware of his emotions, can regulate them, and is aware of how others are feeling.
Being competent does not mean the individual is an expert in all things related to the business or of managing his emotions; rather, it means the individual is adequately knowledgeable and skilled and has a basic knowledge and ability with most things that come his way. Competence is often an issue when someone is hired or promoted through political wrangling, nepotism, or favoritism.
People don’t like being manipulated or lied to. That’s why leaders who are open and honest with their employees earn high marks. Openness and honesty keeps everyone together as a unit, sharing the same experience. It also, provides the leader an opportunity to teach employees about his thought process, including underlying assumptions. In addition to being instructive, transparency can invite the sharing of alternate viewpoints. The back and forth exchange of ideas that comes from such openness helps forge a stronger bond amongst the group and furthers the leader’s believability and credibility.
To be inspiring, you don’t have to be Martin Luther King, Jr. It does, however, mean that you can help others see that they are part of something bigger and can accomplish great things in concert with others. This is about helping employees see the “big picture” and their place in helping the grand plan come to fruition. Neurologically, by way of mirror neurons, followers’ brains light up in many different areas when they interact with a leader who can enthusiastically connect them with the big picture. This increases the chance that employees will be open to new ideas and new emotions as they scan the business environment for options to attain a corporate goal or vision. And that is exactly what a leader wants to inspire employees to do.
Finally, today’s leader must have the ability to scan for future trends, opportunities, and threats. The marketplace changes so quickly that leaders must have an eye on what is coming down the pike – good, bad, different and indifferent. This gives the organization advanced notice allowing it to adapt and stay relevant and in business. The leader who is uncomfortable with change or unaware of trends will react slowly if at all, failing to catch the next wave that will keep the business afloat. Because followers rely on the continuation of the organization, the credible leader is in tune with what’s happening now as well as with what is likely coming in the future to ensure the longevity of the organization.
What do you need to do differently to be credible enough to lead?
WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more: www.bethstrathman.com.