John Baldoni, a leadership consultant, coach, and speaker, is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review Magazine. His work centers on how leaders can use their authority, communications and presence to build trust and drive results. In this excerpted article, he provides his view on the importance of credibility in a leader…..
Credibility is a leader’s coin of the realm. With it, he or she can lead people to the Promised Land; without it, they wander in the desert of lost expectations. Once lost it may be impossible to regain, and so the lesson to any manager who as any aspiration of achieving anything is to guard your credibility and take care you never lose it. Here’s how.
Character matters. With apologies to dramatists, character for a leader is action. Leaders are judged by what they do, not what they are. Little good can come from being good; you must do good things. You must be stalwart in the face of crisis. Be the rock for your team to stand upon when times are tough. And be in the shadow when success arrives. Character does matter.
Acknowledge shortcomings. Look for ways to negate your weaknesses. Surround yourself with people who complement you in skills but also in personality. For example, if you are the visionary type, get some practical types to carry forth your ideas. Likewise, if you are someone who is quick on the trigger, temper-wise, make certain you have calm and collected types beside you.
Live your values. Putting values statements on the wall may look good, but take time to read them. Better yet, act on them. Living values is easy when the going is good. The challenge arises when times are tough. As we have seen recently, integrity in some financial institutions was swept away by greed. When tough decisions need to be made, consider your values. Doing what is right may cause hardship; there can be no shame in sacrifice. Better to give up what is expedient in favor of what is sustainable.
Even the best intentioned of us make mistakes. Sometimes we do it purposefully, too. It is part of our humanity. Therefore when we do harm to another, or our organization, we must quickly accept responsibility. So when you make a mistake, admit it and seek to make amends immediately. Do not wait till things blow over; they will not calm down until you act. Doing so requires guts but, as our mothers warned us, it will do us good. Better yet, it will be good for your team.
“Character,” wrote Abraham Lincoln, “is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Character is the root of credibility. Chop off the roots and your “tree” falls. So mind your step and be ever vigilant. Credibility is essential to your leadership quotient.