Leadership Lesson 02: Credibility Matters

Leadership Lesson 02:
Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership.

If people don't believe in you, they won't willingly follow you.  Kouzes and Posner

The subject of credibility is so important, that Kouzes and Posner wrote a TOME on it. The subtitle tells you why they wrote so extensively on it. How Leaders Gain and Lose, Why People Demand It. People demand it. So we better know what it is, how we get it, and how we could lose it.

Central to their research was the identification of the four most important qualities that, when combined in a leader, they confer CREDIBILITY on that leader. Over a 30 year period of research, Kouzes and Posner found the data to be remarkably stable. The four most important qualities people expect are, in order:

honest (85%)
forward-looking (70%)
inspiring (69%)
competent (64%)

After these four qualities, the next closest quality - intelligence, gets only 42% of the vote!

There are additional models that lend more support to this.

The Good Work Project (Howard Gardner) and studies on the subject of Source Credibility for communicators shows great consistency. See the chart below.

credibility chart and good work qualities and source credibility collated

What is the bottom line about credibility? 

You Can't Lead Without Credibility.
Others simply will not willingly follow you. They may have to follow you, but they do so with compliance and reluctance. They will not do good work for you.

Look over those four qualities and do some self-assessment. Create an informal poll (anonymous) to get others to evaluate you on these qualities. Have a "come to Jesus meeting" if these things are lacking. You need to find some way to have them in your life.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International