Commitment to Self-Improvement Drives Leadership Credibility

Commitment to Self-Improvement Drives Leadership Credibility

By Steve Rumery, Ph.D.

Leadership credibility is at the core of a leader’s effectiveness. To be effective, leaders need to work through others to achieve shared goals and objectives. Without credibility, leaders have difficulty influencing their people to accomplish great things.

Of course, much research has examined the facets of leader credibility and there is a great deal written on the topic. In my own experience coaching and developing leaders, credibility is often described in terms of competence (technical and managerial), character, courage, composure, and care for people. If leaders can demonstrate strength in all of these areas, their people will perceive them as credible leaders.

However, one interesting finding we see repeatedly in our research is the degree to which a leader’s commitment to self-improvement can drive their perceived credibility.

For example, in a series of studies on 5,756 leaders and managers from a variety of industries (pharmaceutical, manufacturing, financial services and communications), results indicated one of the top predictors of credibility, based on the 360-degree feedback ratings of approximately 60,000 raters, was the degree to which a leader or manager demonstrated a commitment to self-improvement. To highlight this point, the n-weighted average correlation across the four samples was .654 between commitment to self-improvement and measures of overall credibility.

What’s fascinating about this finding is that for many leaders the finding does not really resonate with them. In particular, leaders who equate leadership effectiveness with leadership strength have a hard time equating credibility with exposing their flaws to the world and, almost worse, making a visible effort to improve.

The irony, of course, is that the people who work with the leader on a regular basis already know the leader’s weaknesses and are looking for some sign that the leader will address them. From the coworker’s perspective, a leader who is making a visible effort to identify and work on areas of weakness is actually building credibility, not destroying it.

So if you are in a leadership position, or working with someone who is, look for opportunities to demonstrate a commitment to self-improvement. Make sure that you collect feedback from coworkers on a regular basis, and don’t be afraid to communicate to people what areas you are developing. If you do, your credibility will soar.

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