EB110 - Executive Credibility © Question:   I want to rise in leadership but need help in choosing a leadership style.  I don’t want to be perceived as too aggressive or authoritative but I do want to be respected.  Can you help me find the balance?

Larry:  It’s really not about balance. It’s about choosing the values by which you want to be identified.  Your question indicates you have already taken the first step.  The choice can be simplified to this: a leadership style based upon the aggressive use of personal power and organizational authority, or, one fueled by executive credibility.  I recognize that this somewhat over-simplifies the problem but it brings the choice into sharp contrast.

Some managers prefer the aggressive, authoritative leadership style because it is often credited with short-term success.  But in the end the price is far too high.  The proud, arrogant, unfeeling attitude that some leaders project actually reveals their own insecurities and incompetence.  What’s even worse, they sometimes try to maintain their tough fear-driven leadership style and say things like “we’re a family here.”  That’s where the word “hypocrite” becomes appropriate.  But, when a leader’s credibility is in doubt, people will eventually express themselves in ways that are detrimental to the mission and profitability.  Eventually, everyone loses.

To gain credibility and legitimate influence, leaders must demonstrate emotional maturity along with competence.  A mature, competent leader fosters a culture where people are encouraged to discover and take responsibility for the causes of problems and build working relationships that are secure and trustworthy.  When people know from personal experience that we are who we say we are as a leader and that we will be “just” in the conduct of our business, they are more likely to cooperate with us in properly fulfilling the mission.  The result will be increased productivity and profits.

But back to your main question, here’s a quick formula for Executive Credibility.

First, Executive Credibility is a measure of our sincerity and skill with people – not how tough, dominating, manipulative or self-serving we can be.

Second, we must remain honorable under pressure.  Most of the bad conduct that we attribute to the stress of the work place can more accurately be traced to either pride or deeply entrenched fears about outcomes.

Third, the competent leader will strive to discern and pursue the just cause.  In the course of fulfilling our routine duties, many decisions have to be made regarding people and their attitudes.  Discerning the just cause is a learned skill that takes dedication and practice and, as I’m sure you know, people do not always cooperate.

Finally, we must truly care about people.  A mature, competent leader will foster a culture where employees express care for the customer by doing things right and care for their colleagues through acts of kindness, encouragement, and support when things aren’t going “right.”