November 20, 2020
During an onsite meeting when the president was out of the room, I asked the senior staff what they viewed as their leader’s most important attribute. To a person they said, “Credibility.”
I wasn’t surprised by their answer.
An article in Inc. Magazine noted that only 49 percent of employees trust their senior management, and only 28 percent believe their leaders are a credible source of information. This is an alarming, but not particularly surprising, statistic.1
Leadership consultant John Maxwell writes that credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt.
As you think about the change that is afoot in much of higher education and the anxiety and resistance that often accompany change, it’s important to review a handful of intentionalities that will help enhance or build the credibility that our institutional leaders must have.
Note: In a recent blog on candor I touched on a couple of these ideas. Find it here: Building Candor.
They have no hidden agendas, they are not gameplayers. They are forthright and open, they keep their word, honor their commitments, and admit when they don’t know something.
I put honest first on the list because without honesty there will never be trust and without trust there will never be credibility.
They don’t undermine, humiliate, talk down, or withhold. “Titles are granted, positions are given, but it’s respect that earns you credibility.” Importantly, this is both a public and private behavior. Says Lolly Daskal.
Credible leaders are doers and have a bias for action. In their minds, pretty good done is really, really good.
Not only do credible leaders make tough decisions, but they do so in a timely fashion and then communicate why the decision was made.
In other words, they are comfortable admitting their mistakes and miscues rather than either ignoring them, or worse, placing the blame on others.
While they are aggressive readers, viewers, and listeners, they are also keen assimilators. They are comfortable asking “what if…?” and “why not…?”
They resource, trust, and support the team that actually runs the institution.
Leaders are accountable for their actions and decisions, they are willing to be held accountable themselves.
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Read Next: Good Communication in Tough Times
1Economy, Peter: “7 Powerful Habits for Establishing Credibility as a Leader,” Inc. Magazine, May 2015.