Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

How Credible Are You As a Leader?

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If legitimacy is the foundation of leadership, then credibility is its pivotal point. Everything revolves around the leader’s credibility. It is the most important aspect of leadership, yet it is often either ignored or minimized. It may be assumed that most individuals are already aware of the importance of their credibility, but my research shows that this is not always the case. However, the great leaders understood the critical importance of credibility in their lives.

Professional credibility is an assessment of the leader’s skills and abilities. Simply put, does the leader possess the tools to do the job? As leaders face challenges and must overcome pressing problems and issues, it is a question that will continually arise in the minds of all constituencies, and will be viewed through the lens of their individual agendas.

Whereas personal credibility assesses the leader as a trustworthy individual, professional credibility evaluates the leader’s professional abilities. However, both are closely aligned, as questions or doubts of a leader’s veracity and trustworthiness may taint his or her professional credibility.

An example of this occurred when Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) negotiated a deal with Carly Fiorina (Hewlett Packard) so that Hewlett Packard could manufacture a HP-branded iPod. The deal included a provision that Apple would work with HP to develop transcoding, so the device would be compatible with the Windows Media player. After the deal was agreed to, Jobs never allowed the transcoding, “but the contract still locked HP out of the MP3 player market until Apple dominated it. Effectively, Steve Jobs “Steve’d,” HP and people there are still pissed. Right or wrong, it worked …”[1] This typifies the behavior of a leader who may have professional credibility and be deficient in personal credibility.

The Jobs’ example illustrates how a leader’s professional credibility might impact a company’s performance and profitability. This includes taking financial risks that may place the company’s sustainability at risk, or as in Job’s case, make it liable to potential lawsuits. While Jobs achieved a strategic advantage over Hewlett-Packard, and may have been considered extremely clever, by some individuals, it damaged both his and Apple’s credibility.

Other notable examples of leaders who took enormous financial risks include Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers), Martin Sullivan (AIG), Jimmy Cayne (Bear Sterns), as well as a host of other CEO’s. Their professional incompetence resulted in causing financial havoc, not only on their companies, but also upon the economy as a whole.

All of these examples underscore the importance of a leader’s professional credibility to their company’s performance and sustainability, especially to all key constituencies. Without any, the company can flounder and ultimately fail.

[1] Enderle, Rob, Apple Without Steve Is Like Disney Without Walt (Tech News World, January 19, 2009)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the great American leaders established credibility with their key constituencies, through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved


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  1. […] Related: How Credible Are You as a Leader? […]

  2. […] How Credible Are You as a Leader? […]

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