According to extensive research by Kouzes and Posner, detailed in The Leadership Challenge, credibility is the cornerstone of leadership. People first listen to what leaders say and then watch their actions for consistency. If you are inconsistent, followers conclude that you don’t believe in what you are saying. If leadership is sales, a lack of credibility leads to “no sale.”
One of a leader’s most important skills is the ability to gain the trust and confidence of followers. Followers have to believe the leader can lead them to achievement of the vision or outcome. They need to be confident that the leader maintains belief and commitment throughout if they are to devote their hearts and souls to doing what it takes to achieve the vision or desired outcome.
For example: “Follow my lead and I will help you get where you need to go. I have done it before and I can do it again.”
Followers who do not respect their leader and his or her abilities will not commit to achieving the vision. They may like the leader as a person but lack faith in the individual’s abilities. I have listened to followers say of a very personable, like able but weak leader that they would socialize with him but never work for him ever again. I have worked with other leaders who tried so hard to be liked that, once they were gone, team members complained bitterly about their lack of support.
Trust and confidence often come through stories of how you, as a leader, have helped others achieve something similar. Faith and belief are enhanced further when you can lay out a viable plan and direction to achieve the lofty vision. When you break the vision down to doable goal steps, followers can see more clearly how the vision can be accomplished. Stories of how others have achieved in similar positions and situations also help sell followers on your abilities.
If you are not seen as credible, no one will buy into anything you say, regardless of your intentions. To the extent that followers doubt you, their own commitment and action move further away from achievement of maximum outcomes.