I am reading, for the third time, a book called “Credibility, How Leaders Gain and Lose it” by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.
My last column was focused on character. Now, I want to switch gears a bit and discuss credibility.
The Oxford dictionary describes it this way: “The quality of being trusted and believed in” and “the quality of being convincing or believable.” Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as “the quality or power of inspiring belief.” So, the natural question then becomes, how does one attain credibility?
Credibility is given to you by others; it's not something you can attain. Why do others give it to you? People give credibility to someone because of proven consistent behavior over a period of time.
They, or we, are deemed credible by words backed up by action. A credible person in the eyes of the law is simply “a witness who comes across as competent and worthy of belief.”
The witness’s testimony is assumed to be more than likely true due to their experience, knowledge, training and sense of honesty. The judge and jury then use these factors to determine whether they believe the witness to be credible.
I wrote a column a while back on my grandmother, my mother’s mother, titled after one of her favorite sayings told to me as a child: “What cannot be cured must be endured.”
I took that saying as literal gospel. Why? Because my grandmother lived it. She did not complain. She did not shrink when it came to hard work. She did not hesitate, sometimes to my chagrin and that of my sister.
We knew that if Grandma Blue said something, she followed through. If not, she told you why. As a side note, we called her Grandma Blue because she was always wearing blue, and because she wasn’t as fun as Grandma Red, which is my father’s mother. We called my dad’s mom Grandma Red because she always wore red lipstick and she was a bit more fun than Grandma Blue.
Red wasn’t as reliable as Grandmother Blue. But that’s a whole other story.
So, all this is to say that if you want to be perceived as credible, then you must earn people’s trust. How do you earn their trust? By demonstrating, through behavior, that you are worthy of their trust. How do you win their trust? By caring for others. People trust you when they see that you genuinely care. You have to be willing to cultivate trust by following through on what you say you will do.
Be your authentic self, in all that entails. People will know if you are not being up front with them, so don’t be ambiguous. Ambiguity leads to distrust; distrust is the enemy of credibility. Take ownership of your missteps, misunderstandings or the times when you were less than what you should have been.
Stand for what you feel is important but be willing to change your perspective if someone shows you are wrong. Don’t be stubborn in the face of the truth. The truth is the truth. Embrace it and admit you were wrong. Embracing truth and admitting you were wrong is a strength, not a weakness. Admitting you were wrong makes you vulnerable, indeed. Vulnerability also means showing others you are human, and you don’t really have it all together — because in reality, you don’t. None of us do.
Be consistent in what you do. If what you do is always changing, you will never establish credibility. Be open, be honest, be transparent. People will trust you if they see you have nothing to hide. Don’t be afraid of criticism. If you embrace the criticism instead of fighting against it, maybe they are right, maybe they are not, but either way, accept the criticism with grace and dignity.
The writers of the aforementioned book discuss six key disciplines. The final two disciplines are “serve a purpose” and “sustain hope.”
You want to be seen as credible? Then earn it! There is no shortcut here. It can be lost as quickly as it was gained.
Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at email@example.com.