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4 ways to increase leadership credibility 

Build leadership credibility by regulating emotion, seeing other perspectives and sharpening critical thinking skills, writes Marlene Chism.

5 min read


leadership credibility

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In a world of change and uncertainty, developing leadership credibility is a top priority for every leader in the hierarchy.  Leadership credibility is essential for building a positive work environment, retaining top talent, navigating change and achieving organizational objectives. Here are four ways to start building more leadership credibility. 

#1 Expand your perspective

It’s easy to become singularly faceted if you only focus on your position, perspective and profession. When you discipline yourself to intentionally see multiple perspectives, you avoid the risk of being misunderstood or considered short-sighted.  For example, from a role perspective, it’s easy to become a taskmaster, missing the bigger picture and how all the parts and pieces work together. At the visionary level, it’s easy to focus only on vision, missing the nuance and challenges of the front-line and middle-level managers. 

How to: Here’s how to expand your perspective. Visualize a boat full of rowers going to a treasure chest on an island. The top leaders want to get to the treasure chest, the middle-level leaders want everyone to row harder and faster, and the rowers want a better seat cushion on the boat. To broaden your perspective, stand (metaphorically) on the bridge to see the entire picture. When talking with an employee, partner, colleague or client, ensure you know whether you’re talking about the treasure chest, the oars or the seat cushions.  

#2 Make critical distinctions

As leaders, we sometimes engage in lazy communication and insufficient critical thinking by accepting ideas that need more depth, differentiation or credibility. The ability to spot the distinction elevates the thought process. A distinction is the difference between similar concepts. For example, I often make a distinction between being stuck and procrastinating. Being stuck is an issue of decision-making: the inability to choose.  Procrastination, conversely, means a decision has been made, but the action has been delayed.

A good example is filing taxes. You’ve decided to file but wait until the last minute. The ability to make distinctions helps you coach employees, ask critical questions and clarify outcomes.

How to: To grow in your ability to make distinctions, there are several exercises you can do: Notice on social media how often people readily agree with some general statement made by an influencer or guru. If you find the advice lacking nuance or distinction, ask yourself, “What would make the statement true or false?” You’ll soon realize that there are different levels of truth at different levels of understanding. You become a critical thinker when you know how to see the nuance and make the distinction. You are less likely to fall prey to manipulation, AI technology or any fad promoted by influencers who want to improve their algorithms.  

#3 Regulate your emotions

As a leader, getting swept up in gossip, manipulation and politics decreases your credibility. A common myth is that emotions don’t matter in business. The fact is human beings are emotional by nature. Emotions signal when something is off or when a boundary has been crossed, so you shouldn’t try to ignore these signals. Emotions are important in decision-making and should never be suppressed. The key is emotional regulation.  

How to: Notice what triggers you, but instead of reacting immediately, create space. If you’re a highly assertive person, this will take discipline. Let the emotion work through your body. You’ll impulsively want to take care of the issue immediately but wait. (Anger and frustration have a way of making you believe it’s time to act when, in fact, it’s a signal to self-regulate.) Remember this: Anger is not the truth but the fuel that gets you there. Once the anger has subsided, the impulse is to avoid the conversation, but don’t. The fact that you’ve been angry and now are calm is an excellent indicator that you’re prepared to resolve conflict credibly.

#4 Seek leadership clarity

At the heart of leadership is good decision-making. When problems are complex and uncertain, it’s easy to get on a hamster wheel of indecision, especially amid change or conflict. The good news is that there is a method to break down the complexities and get to the root of the problem. I call that process Leadership Clarity.  

How to: Leadership Clarity looks at four points of significance: The situation, the desired result, the current obstacles and how the entire situation affects business results. To accurately assess the situation, answer these two questions: “What is happening that should not be happening?” and “How does this affect the business?” The next question is, “What are the obstacles?”  The last question is, “What is the outcome I seek?” If you can answer these questions, you can jump off the hamster wheel of indecision and get closer to uncovering the root cause.

Credible leaders are better equipped to lead through challenges, conflict and uncertainties. During difficult times, employees follow leaders they trust. It’s never too early to start building leadership credibility. 


Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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