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How to Avoid the Leadership Credibility Gap

What is Leadership Credibility?

Merriam Webster defines credibility as the following:

The quality of being believed or accepted as true, real, or honest

In her book, The Personal Credibility Factor, Sandy Allgeier speaks about the importance of personal credibility.

As she explains, personal credibility answers the question: Can you be trusted?

Personal credibility is about trust, respect, and being believable.  While personal credibility applies to everyone in the workplace, it is especially important for managers.

Personal credibility is about how others see you as a manager leading your team in the organization.

Your team members, peers, boss, and senior leadership view your role in the organization and ask the question: Can you be trusted to lead?

You've earned leadership credibility when your employees, peers, and boss trust you to lead your area. Click To Tweet

How Do Leaders Damage Their Credibility?

To assess the level of your leadership credibility in your organization, you would need honest answers to the following questions:

  • Do your employees view you as being believable?
  • Do your employees have confidence that you will do the right thing?
  • Do your peers view you as being credible?
  • Does your boss, and senior leadership (if applicable), view you as trustworthy?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you have a leadership credibility gap that you need to resolve.

There are many reasons why leaders have a credibility gap.

For example, sometimes a leader’s credibility gap is due to his or her misalignment with the organizational culture of the company. The manager could be operating on one set of values (for example, results first and process second) while the organizational culture values another set of values (process first, then results).

In this situation, the leader is not trusted because his or her management style does not align with the organizational culture.

Some managers lack leadership credibility because their style of doing things does not align with organizational values. Click To Tweet

If this applies to you, then a simple adjustment in your approach where you align how you do things in your organization with the values of the organization could begin the process of restoring your credibility within your organization.

The root cause of leadership credibility gaps however is that they are often due to other reasons. These reasons fall on the people side of the business and they come from the everyday operational behavior of managers.

If you have a gap in your organization, then it may be due to simple human interactions that you have been doing. Over time, these actions may have harmed trust and respect for you as a leader in your workplace.

Sandy refers to these common human behaviors (yes, we all do them from time to time) as personal credibility busters.

Personal credibility busters are the human failings that every manager does at times. In other words, in the real world of management and leadership, none of us are perfect. Sometimes we don’t interact appropriately with others in the organization.

In my leadership development work, I call the continuation of these uncorrected everyday offences: The Death of your Leadership Credibility by a Thousand Cuts. They are the uncorrected actions that you are doing that are slowly damaging your leadership credibility in your organization.

Personal credibility busters can include common behaviors such as continually rescheduling appointments or missing deadlines.


How to Build Leadership Credibility (Trust) in the Workplace?

Building leadership credibility is a process. It is done through the many actions and inactions that managers take in their everyday interactions in the workplace.

By taking the right actions and avoiding the personal credibility busters, managers can establish trust with critical stakeholders. This trust is not to be taken for granted however as trust is a fragile asset.

Some of Sandy’s useful recommendations for building leadership credibility include the following:

  1. Obtain 360 degree feedback from employees and customers
  2. Avoid telling little white lies (they tend to morph into larger lies)
  3. Avoid doing everything (this often ensures that nothing will be done well)
  4. Avoid belittling others (eventually others will view you as petty or worse insecure)
  5. Avoid making too many excuses even if they are legitimate (your team, peers, boss and senior leaders expect you to come up with solutions)

Credible leadership begins when you keep the emotional contract with your team members and others in the organization.  This helps you to build trust with others in your organization.  Trust is further built when you act in a way that promotes respect and when you keep your word.

As with so many things in management and leadership, it’s the little things that cause the biggest problems!


When a manager lacks leadership credibility, it's often the little things that he or she has done over time that add up to destroy his or her reputation. Click To Tweet
Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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