It's the combination of what you do and who you are that is built over years and yet lost in seconds.
Leadership is about you, but it's not all about you. In one sense leadership is not about you because the focus is on serving and bringing out the best in others. In another sense, it is about you because your leadership only reaches as far as the credibility of your character. Thus, all the great leaders I know both endlessly serve others and give constant attention to the economy of their character which increases their credibility. And I believe every leader eventually discovers that the skills, tactics, and strategies of leadership only take them so far, the rest is dependent on their character - not just what they do but who they are. Furthermore, they know that even small cracks in their character have the potential to undermine all their credibility, which is true for both leaders and their organizations.
Credibility is built over years and lost in seconds.
Here are four key areas that I believe contribute to building leadership credibility and thus increase the integrity between what a leader does and who they are.
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Area One | Personal Transparency
Transparency is a definitive currency of leaders because employees, volunteers, and customers instinctively want to know who a leader is. The greatest leaders I know have no difficulty being transparent with themselves and others. While some perceive this as a show of weakness, great leaders understand that it requires tremendous confidence to open their soul up to others. On the other hand, non-transparent leaders are eventually perceived as insecure and suffer an emotional disconnection to their followers because they view them as manipulative. A leader who lets others into their lives allow others to know them which builds credibility and trust.
Area Two | Proven Experience
Leadership credibility is built with proven leadership experience. There is no quick road to credibility, but it is made one leadership decision at a time – often over a long time. A variety of challenges must prove it. Sometimes this includes taking responsibility for mistakes, owning up to a blind spot, receiving critical feedback and growing from it, or giving away credit for success to someone else even when it leads to their advancement. In the process, we prove what makes our leadership - is it our success or what we learn from failure and how we handle it. Proven leaders have trusted followers who are willing to believe the decisions, fairness, wisdom, and ultimately the character of one who leads. People do not expect leaders to make the right calls all the time, but they do expect leaders to be honest about their mistakes, what they are learning, and will take responsibility. It is in moments like these leaders are proven. One decision at a time.
Area Three | Selfless Vision
Leaders have a disposition toward a better future and cannot stop thinking about it. They have a vision for what can be, can often describe it in detail, and want to help others pursue it. They refuse to settle for what currently is and call people to what potentially could be. It's one that does not bring attention to self but to a higher cause, better future, and greater outcomes. But there's a caveat. Many visionary leaders can cast a vision yet cannot figure out how to get there. The greatest leaders I know have a vision, and they're willing to sacrifice to help others to get there. They resource and equip them regardless of the cost. Remember, a vision without a plan is merely a dream and a vision without people is only a fantasy.
Area Four | Emotionally Invested
Leaders inspire hope in others. They motivate and are profoundly optimistic about what can be and call others to go with them. People who spend time with them come away inspired and encouraged even in the face of uncertainty and challenge. This is because at the deepest level they are emotionally invested. This investment is more than a casual transaction it's one that they are fully invested in, and they motivate others to invest in. This was the genius of leaders like Winston Churchill who helped others believe what could be. In the darkest days of World War II, he motivated a whole nation to stand against Hitler and to never give up. So motivate and inspire someone today.
So why not give it a spin today. Lean in and become a little more transparent, be proven, cast a selfless vision, and get invested emotionally. But don't do nothing!
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.