Do you know the difference between personal credibility and leadership credibility? I want to highlight the differences in these concepts and also show how they illustrate the difference between honesty and integrity, which people often confuse. My source is a fantastic book by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner called Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose it, Why People Demand it. I think Kouzes and Posner write some of the best stuff out there on leadership.
Personal credibility means you DWYSYWD – do what you say you will do. This to me is honesty, which for a leader is absolutely necessary but not sufficient. Even a despot can have personal credibility. I’ve worked for a few people that had impeccable honesty but were not seen as good leaders. The problem was even though they were honest they were speaking and acting in ways that nobody but themselves valued.
Leadership credibility means DWWSWWD – do what we say we will do. This can only arise when leaders develop legitimate and strong relationships with followers. Leaders with leadership credibility speak and act consistent with the values of constituents. I see this as integrity, which in contrast to honesty, is values based. The leader with integrity speaks and acts in ways consistent with what we stand for and they continue to do so even when they might be under heavy pressure to do otherwise.
Forgetting the we has derailed many managers. Their actions may have been consistent only with their own wishes, not with those of the people they wanted to lead. When managers resort to the use of power and position, to compliance and command to get things done, they are not leading, they are dictating. (Kouzes & Posner, 1993).
Do you have leadership credibility – integrity? You can’t answer this question on your own. Only your followers can answer this question about you.