Improve Your Leadership Credibility
By Avoiding These Easy Mistakes
Leadership credibility is hard to establish and easy to lose. The sad truth is I’ve seen really good leaders lose the confidence and credibility of their teams by making well-intentioned and innocent mistakes.
5 Subtle Ways To Diminish Your Leadership Credibility
I’m not talking about the big stuff like lack of follow-through or breaking commitments, but the subtle shifts that undermine all the trust you’re working to build. Don’t fall into these traps.
- Choosing the wrong words
- Being close, yet so far away
- Appearing out of touch
- Making it all about you
- Spinning the truth
1. Choosing the Wrong Words
Leaders use dramatic words to create a vision and gain attention. That’s good. I’m all for colorful language and exciting words. But leaders lose credibility when the words are too big or small for the situation at hand.
I once worked with a leader whose rally cry of the year was, “we’re in the fight of our lives.”
Now, it’s true the competition was fierce, and we needed every brain, heart, and hand actively engaged in the struggle.
The trouble was many in her audience were literally in the fight of their lives in one way or another: the second bone marrow transplant, a dying sister, and a son still in Iraq.
I could see these dedicated leaders squirm when she said these words. Sure they knew what she was trying to say, but the words did not inspire the cause.
Leadership credibility requires being in tune with your team and what’s on their hearts and minds and making sure your words reflect your empathetic approach.
It works the other way too. Words can be too small. If you want more leadership credibility, if it’s time to be impressed, be impressed.
Don’t say, a project was okay when you should have said Wow!
2. Being Close, Yet So Far Away
Leaders don’t necessarily need to be able to do the job of the people on their team to have leadership credibility, but they do need to understand it. I was talking to a sales VP the other day who was fantastic at building long-term strategic relationships with his prospects and clients
His boss was losing real leadership credibility with him because he was asking him to call his prospects EVERY DAY to check-in. The sales VP KNEW that was the easiest way to frustrate his prospects.
He couldn’t imagine a worse approach. He knew his relationships (and long track record of success) worked because of deep trust and long-term commitment, nagging would have been an immediate turn-off.
His boss did not understand the art of relationship selling, and he lost leadership credibility because of his bad advice.
3. Appearing Out of Touch
A close cousin to #2, leaders lose credibility when they can’t relate to the personal circumstances of their teams. The other day, I heard a customer service VP on stage talking to a team of call center reps trying to inspire great customer service.
She shared, “if you’ve ever been on a Disney Cruise, that’s the kind of service I need you to provide.”
These reps were worried about putting food on the table and gas in the car. The sentiment was spot on, but she needed another example.
4. Making it All About You
They encourage people to ask them lots of questions about their background, career path, and advice. And of course, It’s great to share.
But leaders lose credibility when they talk about themselves without turning the tables and taking a genuine interest in others.
To gain leadership credibility, listen more than you talk. Ask provocative questions. Get to know their background, hopes, and dreams. Provide opportunities for others to share.
5. Spinning the truth
Of course, some strategy and information is confidential. If you can’t share, say that.
But masking the truth with spin, far-fetched positioning, and other bologna will diminish your leadership credibility fast. People will see through it and wonder what else, you’re not saying.
You’re working too hard to build credibility with your team and organization to throw it away with a sloppy mistake. Pay attention to these potential derailers. Get others involved, sometimes they’re too subtle to see from where you sit.
Looking to gain more leadership credibility and build trust and connection with your team?
Download the first chapter of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates for FREE here.