Foundations of Leadership: #1


Public Domain Photos, Emilian Robert Vicol

Foundations of Leadership: #1

I’ve got a tough question for you, and I want your knee-jerk response.   Quickly jot down the answer that comes to mind first.

Why would anyone want to follow you?

(Seriously. Pause here and answer the question. Write it down.)

Sure.  There are tons of potentially good answers.  But what came to mind immediately?

What did you actually write down?

If it wasn’t this or directly related to this, you might just have a problem:


Why is credibility the correct answer?   Basically, you would not truly follow someone that you didn’t believe was credible.  Credibility is a necessary (albeit insufficient) condition of real leadership.

Without credibility, you might do what a “leader” told you to do because s/he is your boss.  But compliance says little to nothing about credibility and more about positional power.

Leaders must be and do lots of things right, of course.  They must be smart, they must have a vision, and they must have integrity.  So credibility isn’t the whole story.

But it’s where the story begins.

Thought Experiment

To drive the point home, imagine this scenario.  You’re in a room with all your teammates, waiting for your leader to arrive.  She’s the CEO, and you are the head of marketing and sales.  The CEO, let’s call her Marissa, should be walking in any minute.  But suddenly, the Chairman of the Board walk in with a woman you’ve never seen and says the following.

“Hello everybody, I would like to introduce you to Meg.  For the next six months, Meg will be your new leader.  Marissa will be taking a six month sabbatical and the Board is assured Meg will be a great Acting CEO while Marissa is away.”

While this is somewhat of a far-fetched scenario, it does happen.  But think about what your immediate reactions would be as a team member.

You might think, “Who the heck is Meg, and why should we do what she says?  What does she know about our company?  What gives her credibility?!”

For the time being, you would follow Meg’s instructions, but out of the gate you wouldn’t be a follower – not until she established her credibility.

Thought Experiment Part 2

Now imagine the next part of the introduction was the following.

“Meg has been deeply embedded in our industry for 30 years, and has turned around two Fortune 100 companies, and grown two other companies from startups to 750 MM in revenue, both which were acquired by the big guys.  Her reputation is one of honesty, vision, and being someone you really want to work with.  She’s got a track record of stellar business decisions, but is always modest about her expertise.”

At this point, her credibility score would be climbing, and your interest in following her would be climbing.

Your likelihood of becoming a follower is directly proportional to the leader’s perceived credibility. 

This may seem commonsensical when looking at other leaders, but it’s often not a part of leadership development thinking.

Consider how this applies to your own development.

Your Development

To become a more effective leader, you have to establish greater credibility.  How can you do that?

First, write down what you know that is very valuable.  Knowledge, experience and subject matter expertise is part of credibility.

Second, become more knowledgeable in the areas that really matter.

Third, gain more experience in the areas that are critical to performance.

Fourth, demonstrate your expertise by making great decisions that add real value.

Fifth, use your credibility to plot a path forward, using your vision.

Foundations of Leadership: #2

Stay tuned for Leadership Foundation #2. Approximately once a month for 10 months, these Foundations will help you get on solid footing.

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Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein


About Curt Buermeyer

I am the founder and president of LeadPeople. I hope you enjoyed this post and encourage you to subscribe to receive these in your inbox. Thanks for visiting!

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