Credibility is often overlooked by aspiring leaders, but it is a vitally core element among those who are actually successful at leading others. Credibility is gained by building trust among people over time. So you may be asking, “Mike, why is a young guy like you writing about credibility?” Well, there are many reasons I probably shouldn’t, and you may be much better off leaving this blog right now. But the truth is, I am right in the middle of it. I am in the mist of learning about gaining and losing credibility.
Currently, I serve as the Life Group director in a church where I oversee more than 60 individuals or couples who lead groups and over 750 people participating in groups. I inherited this ministry role not quite two years ago. And it is in this role that I find myself needing credibility among those I lead in order to grow the ministry. But for this to happen, I need to first gain the trust of those I lead because credibility is birthed from trust.
Although I have significant trust and credibility still to gain, below are 10 building blocks God has used to help me increase trust among those I lead.
1. Time – Time is one of the most determining factors in building trust among others because building trust is about relationships, and relationships take time.
2. Age – Generally, when a leader is older than his followers, he will be more quickly trusted. In my case, most of the people I am trying to lead are older, with many having more practical leadership experience as well. This can make building trust difficult.
3. Supervisor Credibility – When a leader’s supervisor has substantial credibility, the leader gains trust from others by simply being spoken of positively by the supervisor.
4. Understanding Generations – When a leader can understand the sociological tendencies among different generations of people, he will learn how to best interact with others so as to gain their trust. For example, some generations trust leaders until they give them a reason not to. While others are highly skeptical of leaders and will require more time to hand over their trust.
5. Character – A leader who is humble, teachable, authentic, compassionate, and generous will build trust faster than those who aren’t. A leader’s true character will become evident to others at some point. Vulnerability increases the rate at which character is noticed.
6. Research – “I don’t know it all; I never will; and, I am okay with this.” This is the kind of humble attitude every credible leader possesses, and it requires research. A leader builds trust through research by learning from others. This can be done by reading books and talking to older, wiser people—people who are more experienced in similar leadership situations.
7. Communication – When a leader communicates clearly and consistently, he will gain trust. People want to hear, directly from the leader, what is going on. They want to clearly know and understand the leader’s vision and plan. They want to know how it affects them. But even more importantly, they want to be heard. They will trust a leader who listens well. It is vital for leaders to create regular, effective communication channels.
8. Faithfulness – Leaders need to follow through. When a leader says he will do something, does he do it? This can be as simple as showing up for meetings on time.
9. Availability – A leader who is available and accessible to those he leads will have more opportunities to build trust, which will help him do so more quickly. Being available also shows care towards others.
10. Integrity – A trusted leader admits mistakes. He takes responsibility for his actions, especially when in the wrong. This shows others the leader will do the right thing, even when no one else is around. Doing the right thing builds trust very quickly.
I have much more to learn about building credibility and trust among those I lead, but these are some building blocks that have been useful to me. I hope you find them useful too!