Monday, December 5, 2016

Establishing your Leadership Credibility

In order to be offered a role as a leader you must first be seen by others to BE a leader. You must
demonstrate leadership capability before others are likely to entrust a leadership role to you. However, it may sometimes feel like a chicken and egg situation - How can I demonstrate my skills as a leader if I don't have people to lead?

Think instead of establishing your credibility as a potential leader by demonstrating the key qualities and characteristics that have universal appeal in our leaders. Ask what you would look for in a leader and ensure that you demonstrate those same traits.

There is always a leap of faith in the promotional process, assumptions that are being made regarding capabilities that are extrapolated from observed behaviour. Increase your odds by being more strategic about the behaviours your audience observes in you.

When it comes to building your leadership credibility note that consistency is key. It is the behaviours that others observe over and over again that they will come to trust are representative of 'you'. Doing something once, no matter how great, could be viewed as an exception, not the rule. When it comes to your credibility and reputation it is therefore the every-day consistent behaviours that carry the greatest weight.

Take a look at what your behaviours, demonstrated each day, say about you and your leadership potential. If they are not telling the story you want told it is time to start re-writing. To help get you past any writer's block you may experience, here are 5 leadership behaviours you may want to ensure are in evidence...

  1. Walk Your Talk.  Think carefully about what your expectations would be of your direct reports and ensure that you are modelling those behaviours. People are far more likely to trust in leaders who lead by example. Ensure that you are setting the example you would want others to follow.
  2. Deliver on your Promises. Make your word your bond. Over-deliver, don't over-promise. Big words have no meaning in the long run if they are not backed up by the promised results. People will come to trust and believe in you if you ensure that you always live up to your agreements.  Under promising and over delivering is a sure-fired way of building customer loyalty.
  3. Engage Others. Working as a lone wolf may serve to highlight your personal capabilities but it does nothing to demonstrate your ability to lead. Successful leaders can't lead from a bubble. They interact, they engage, they motivate. Show others your ability to engage and get work done through others to highlight your leadership potential.
  4. Listen.  Don't make the mistake of thinking that you must be the most-heard voice around the table to be seen as a leader. A critical skill of successful leaders is their ability to listen to the opinions and expertise of those around them. Listening is a critical skill of leaders and a skill that seems to be in short supply in the work world of today. Cultivate your listening skills today to strengthen your leadership skills of tomorrow.
  5. Take a stand. Leaders need to make decisions. This means that they need to be able to take a stand on issues and stay the course when needed. Decision making is not always easy but the one guarantee I have for you is that it gets no easier as you move up the ladder. The decisions get more complicated and the potential impact far greater. If no one sees you taking a stand on issues today they are not going to believe that you will be any more likely to do so in the future. 
Your credibility is built over time, which means there is no time like the present to begin building yours. Like any structure, it is built one brick or board at a time. Anything you do that supports the leadership message adds to your building, anything you do that works against it takes away. How quickly your building and message come together is dependent upon the consistency of your positive behaviours. 

As much as the list I provided above highlights behaviours we would like our leaders to demonstrate it is likely is also a list of behaviours that would serve us all. Walk our talk, live up to our agreements, be respectful of those around us, listen to what people have to say and be prepared to take a stand on things that matter. Certainly a recipe for success, but not a bad recipe for living.

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