Credibility is absolutely essential in leadership. Without credibility your great ideas won’t be heard and your big plans won’t be embraced. In the classic work The Leadership Challenge, credibility is offered as the most indispensable quality a leader must possess. I recently wrote about big ways leaders can bolster their credibility, and while those are essential, it is often the little things leaders do over time that increases their credibility. Credibility is critical not only with those a leader leads but also with those the leader serves alongside of and those the leader reports to. Here are seven small ways leaders can build their credibility with others:
1. Answer communication within 24 hours.
While I am not suggesting you live with your device surgically attached to your palm, it is important to build margin in your schedule to be as responsive as possible to your team, to those you serve alongside, and to your leader—especially if your decision-making or information-sharing is critical to moving a project forward. If you help speed projects forward, you gain credibility. If you slow them down, you lose credibility.
2. Be concise and clear in responses.
If people feel they can come to you for clarity, they will come to you more often. If they walk away confused, they will come to you less.
3. Beat, don’t just meet, deadlines.
To increase credibility, do more than meet deadlines. Beat them. By doing so, you serve others well by giving breathing room and time to them.
4. Read what your leader reads.
Pay attention to what your leader is reading and follow suit. It helps you have intelligent conversations and equips you to engage in areas that are important to him or her.
5. Read what your team reads.
In the same way, find out what are the important reads for people on your team. Read those over time. It shows your desire to understand their space and the thinking that is beneath all the activity.
6. Be ready to go on time, every time.
The person who is ready to go, not rushing in chaotically and frantically late, shows they value the opportunity and the others around the table. Consistently showing up ready to learn or execute builds credibility over time.
7. Own your mistakes.
Ok, this one is not always small. You will make mistakes. In fact, the more aggressive you are, the more you will make. If you deflect and blame, you will lose credibility. If you own them and commit to learn from them, your humility will build your credibility.