leadership theorists are returning to the trait theory of leadership. They are finding
that certain demonstrable qualities are shared by leaders. Among those qualities are the
following. Which ones do you associate with yourself?
These are all
essential qualities followers expect in a leader. How these expectations are met, or not
met, is what determines a leader's credibility factor. Credibility may well be one of the
most difficult attributes for a leader to earn, and one of the easiest to lose.
According to Jim Kouzes and Barry
Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, there are six strategies leaders can take to
build and maintain their credibility. I will summarize these strategies for you to
consider. I also encourage you to assess yourself in relationship to how you are currently
leading those for whom you are accountable.
Strategy No. 1 - Clarify Your Values
It is important for leaders to
communicate their values to those they lead because those values are the foundation on
which everything else is built. Conveying who you are, your goals and what you stand for
can have a significant impact upon your followers' performance and attitudes.
Strategy No. 2 - Identify What Your Followers Want
Followers are unanimous in naming
responsiveness to their needs and concerns as a key factor they look for in a leader.
Leaders who act only in their own self-interest, ignoring the needs of their followers,
eventually lose the trust of those they lead.
Strategy No. 3 - Build Consensus
Followers want leaders who trust the
experience and ideas of those they lead; they want leaders who seek and respect their
input. While followers understand that it is the leader who must ultimately make the
decision, they also know that credible leaders include and involve their followers in
charting a course and setting standards. When a leader doesn't collaborate with his or her
team, the message the team receives is that their ideas are not important or trustworthy.
This is not a message that contributes to a leader's credibility.
Strategy No. 4 - Communicate Shared Values with Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm emerges as a crucial
characteristic of leadership. Followers want and need leaders who can communicate shared
values with ardor and conviction. They want leaders who have energy, who become involved,
who express their genuine passion for what the organization is working to accomplish.
Enthusiasm is contagious. Followers catch it from their leaders. As Barry Posner reminds
us, "You can't light a fire with a wet match."
Strategy No. 5 - Stand Up for Your Beliefs
Followers don't follow leaders who lack
confidence in their own decisions. While leaders must be open to alternatives and listen
to feedback, they must also take a stand. Leaders who do not stand by their beliefs create
stress, indecision and conflict in their team.
Strategy No. 6 - Lead by Example
Followers expect their leaders to do
more than lead; they expect them to teach and develop leadership within their organization
and to do this by setting an example. People believe action over words every time. To be
credible, a leader must be a role model. Leaders cannot hold others responsible for shared
values when they don't live by those values themselves.
A final word: Leadership is not about
doing it yourself. It is about building relationships with others as representatives build
relationships with clients. At the heart of those relationships is credibility. A leader's
credibility and believability are what enables others in any organization to achieve
excellence and experience success.