Leadership Credibility

Leaders should be mindful of how their words and actions impact credibility. Credibility is essential during financial recovery. As leadership guru Jim Kouzes pus it, “When you have to act quickly and decisively under adverse circumstances, and at the same time maintain the highest levels of follower commitment, you need lots of credit stored up with your constituents.” Here is a checklist for creating credible leadership.

Articulate a vision.
People will want to follow a leader who will take them to a better future. Describe that better future. Perhaps it is as simple as a budget season that is free of the contentious and wrenching cutback decisions that have marked previous years. The vision gives followers hope.

Be consistent in words and behaviors. Credible leaders model the way forward for others by acting in a way that is consistent with their words (they “walk the talk”). They also are consistent in their message and decisions. The realities of a political environment, however, mean that the leader will need to be careful about what he or she says, lest circumstances require a change in direction. Staff leaders will also need to make sure that their words respect the importance of the elected officials’ role.

Be flexible in solutions. The leader is willing to consider new ideas. The leader is also willing to change tactics or strategies when they are not working.

Be honest. A leader cannot always reveal everything they know to followers, but they can share the truth, and exercise judgment and delicacy in doing so.

Give the personal touch. A leader who is seen as responsive will be more credible. Make use of in-person communication to improve responsiveness. Don’t over-rely on e-mail or memos. YouTube and other new media tools can extend the personal touch.

Demonstrate expertise. The leader must demonstrate an understanding of the technical aspects of the recovery. For example, just providing financial data says little about what the leader knows about the situation. Instead, demonstrate a real world understanding of the organization’s operational and capital investment challenges, link that to the origins of financial distress, and then describe the path to a better world as well as what that better world looks like.

Trust followers. Once the leader has formed a recovery team or teams, the leader should give their subordinates sufficient power and authority to carry out their goals. The leader is willing to share power and involve others in the solution. The leader does not micromanage, but the leader does trust blindly either. He or she recognizes which followers need more direction and which can be given a goal and latitude to achieve it. The leader also couples their trust with accountability for results.

Encourage followers. The leader openly recognizes the successes and achievements of others and gives credit where it is due. When followers believe in themselves, their contribution to the recovery will become that much greater.
Go on to Recovery Leaders and Elected Officials

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