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Dwight Eisenhower once said,
"In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man's associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose" (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Great Quotes From Great Leaders, ed. Peggy Anderson, Lombard: Great Quotations, 1989).
Are we credible? Do people have confidence in our leadership? To make an impact on peoples' lives, we must be credible leaders.
Credibility is the "reasonable grounds for being believed." One who is credible is trustworthy. We have confidence in a person's character and competence. Socrates said, "The first key to greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be."
The terms integrity and honesty help define credibility.
Integrity is "the state of being complete or undivided." Terms that are parallel to integrity (Hebrew, tom, tomim) help us understand it: righteousness (Psalm 7:8); uprightness (Psalm 25:21); without wavering (Psalm 26a:1 NRSV, NASB, and NIV); and blameless (Psalm 101:2, NRSV); Hebrew uses tom twice in verse; otherwise translated "integrity"). Several Old Testament characters had integrity: Noah (Genesis 6:9); Abraham (Genesis 17:1); Jacob (Genesis 25:27); Job (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3); and David (1 Kings 9:4). English translations frequently render the Hebrew as "perfect or blameless." In the New Testament integrity occurs only in Titus 2:7 in reference to teaching (NRSV, NIV, REB). The idea of singleness of heart or mind is often present: Matthew 5:8; 6:22; James 1:7, 8; 4:8 (Holman Bible Dictionary).
Honesty means "fairness and straightforwardness of conduct." The KJV frequently uses honesty or its cognates whereas modern translations use other words: honorable/honorably (Romans 13:13; Philippians 4:8; Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 2:12); noble (Luke 8:15; Romans 12:17); dignity (1 Timothy 2:2); and properly (1 Thessalonians 4:12). Men of "honest report" are men of good standing (Acts 6:3, NRSV; Holman Bible Dictionary).
Leaders gain respect and trust when they do what is right, mentor workers, listen, celebrate good work, follow through on commitments, trust and empower others, share their visions, open doors, overcome personal hardships, admit mistakes, advise others, solve problems creatively, and teach well. Credible leaders influence the lives and decisions of their followers (James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, p. 50).
Myths about credibility and leadership
Myths about leadership and credibility abound.
Credibility and trust
Credible leadership is trustworthy. We develop trust through open, honest communication. Leaders also need to be vulnerable. The fear of being hurt often prohibits us from developing relationships that encourage trust and that influence others.
When people distrust, they are suspicious and play mind games. Lack of trust leads one to disguise, distort or ignore facts because of fear or anger. When a worker becomes defensive, miscommunication occurs.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner discuss trust and relationships. Their studies reveal that those who work with leaders they trust make better decisions themselves. They share their feelings, are honest about group problems, and are eager to find solutions. They report high levels of mutual influence, greater work satisfaction, higher motivation to act upon decisions, and team closeness. More than 66 percent of those in low-trust groups say they would seriously consider looking for another position (The Leadership Challenge, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1987, pp. 147, 148).
Two factors impact credibility in leadership.
The trust fact. The primary difference between high-performance and low-performance groups is the degree to which they trust their supervisor.
Trust is fragile and delicate. It doesn't come easily or quickly. We withhold trust until we feel safe and respected. We want others to prove themselves before we trust them. We can destroy trust with a single violation.
Richard Huseman and John Hatfield describe attitudes and behaviors that occur at different trust levels:
The equity factor. When we give more than we get in a relationship, we want to restore equity. People calculate the costs and benefits of relationships. They may come to your church or Bible study, but if the benefit is not equal to or greater than the cost, they may become frustrated and leave. People evaluate leadership the same way. They support leaders as long as the benefit is equal to the cost. Their support, service, and giving reflects their perception of the benefit. People will commit to trustworthy, credible leaders.
How to build trust and enhance credibility
Evaluate your leadership
People who see their leaders as credible also see themselves, their responsibilities, their coworkers, and their organizations differently from those who view their leaders as not credible.
Does you church see you as a credible leader? A true leader has more than a title on his door. He also has the trust and confidence of those who follow him.
Adapted from James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, pp. 31, 32