Credibility: the Acid Test of Leadership

I haven’t committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.

Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes

To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.

Edward R. Murrow

Recent headlines tell us that people have lost faith in their institutions and the individuals who run them. Whether it is stories of political misconduct, tainted pet food, impropriety in leading financial organizations or the latest sports scandal, too often we have read of organizations and their leaders that have substituted power, control and manipulation for honesty, trust and respect. And if we continue to allow self-interest to motivate our actions the result will be a total breakdown of character and integrity.

One of the acid tests of authentic leadership is credibility. Credibility forms the foundation not only of leadership but also of relationships. Credibility provides the authority to lead as it creates trust and loyalty within an organization or ministry.  As you become recognized for your commitment to honesty, integrity and fairness a spirit of cooperation and teamwork is developed.

leadershipThis increased influence is a by-product of credibility and the more confidence people place in you and your leadership, the even greater influence you will have. Cavett Roberts has observed; “If my people understand me, I’ll get their attention. If my people trust me, I’ll get their action.” Only as credibility characterizes your conduct will others listen to your message.

If credibility is to be the hallmark of our lives and our leadership, we need to make the following daily commitments:

1.  I will do what I say.

Am I the same person, no matter who I am with or what the circumstances?

2.  I will live what I teach.

Despite the difficulty, can others model my behavior as well as my words?

3.  I will be honest with myself and with others.

Whatever the personal cost, am I committed to absolute honesty?

4.  I will put what is best for others ahead of what is best for me.

Do I make decisions that are best for me when another choice would benefit others?

5.  I will be transparent, authentic and vulnerable

Is the “visible” me and the “real” me consistent?

Leadership isn’t the result of a position or title as much as it is the positioning of character, and credibility is the distinguishing mark of one’s character. It’s not gained in a seminar or workshop. Credibility is a lifestyle; not a single event or a lone occurrence, but a pilgrimage over time. As such, there are no shortcuts to your credibility. While image and reputation is what people think you are, credibility determines who you really are. And if we are not vigilant at this point, a lifetime of credibility can be lost in a moment with a careless word, an inappropriate action or an impetuous indiscretion.

Stay the Course,

Dr. Greg Morris


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