“How do I become a credible leader, that my team members and boss will listen to?” is a question I am often asked when working with leaders. To be influential, leaders first need to establish a high level of credibility in the workplace. One leader I coached had a difficult time having her innovative ideas considered. She felt her boss never took her seriously and as a result could not change any of her team’s ineffective processes. It wasn’t that she didn’t have helpful strategies that could lead her team forward but rather she was not considered to be a credible resource.
After talking about why her suggestions were overlooked, she came to the realization that neither her boss nor her team thought she was a valuable contributor. Even though she was a hard worker she was not being asked for her perspectives. She was even beginning to feel invisible and ready to look for another position. She decided that she had little credibility on her team.
Four Principles Credible Leaders Follow
1. Be Fully Present and Focused
There is nothing more frustrating to our team members than having some of their co-workers only partially tuned in. With virtual meetings as well as virtual one-on-ones, we need to work doubly hard at staying engaged. If we appear to be aloof or pursuing other work while we are supposed to be interacting with our team, we lose credibility. How do we show we are fully present?
- Look into the camera not at whatever else might be going on around us.
- Ask relevant and smart questions to demonstrate interest and understanding.
- Put on a smile, as that displays positive feelings.
- Provide impactful feedback to add value to the discussion.
2. Become A Trusted and Dependable Colleague
To be credible we must be trustworthy and that means we need to lead by following through on what we say we will do. For example, if we have a deadline to meet it is important to complete our part of the deliverable in a timely way. If we discover we are not able to finish on time, then we need to be upfront and explain ahead of time why our part will be delayed. If we want to be trusted with future and higher level projects we have to hold ourselves accountable. That means keeping our colleagues and boss updated with accurate information of our progress.
3. Speak Up with Confidence
Don’t second guess yourself and never assume colleagues know more than you. Lead with the belief that your contributions are valuable and critical to the team’s success. One leader I am working with had a difficult time thinking their ideas had merit. That caused an abundance of insecurity and led to a loss of their “mojo”. Here are some ways we found for him to speak up with credibility and confidence:
- Thoroughly research the information to be shared with the team.
- Prepare the best way to explain material that not everyone might be familiar with.
- Test out your ideas with a trusted colleague to see if there are any missing concepts.
- When speaking to your boss or team use clear language and an upbeat tone.
- Welcome feedback with an ear to learning from it.
4. Build Meaningful Team Relationships
Look around at the credible leaders on your team and what you will certainly notice is that they have strong relationships with the people they connect. When I coach new leaders in ways to build credibility, the first thing we talk about is their support system. Do they have mentors to guide them? Do they have co-workers who they feel comfortable brainstorming their challenges? Are they able to admit mistakes as well as the lessons they learned? Purposefully building strong work relationships enables leaders to develop their credibility.