September 2013 ~ Credibility
September 2013 ~ Credibility
What is "credibility"? I don't understand what that means.
That question was asked by a local city official after many people in a public meeting questioned the decisions being made by the local city council and someone mentioned the word "credibility."
James Kouzes and Barry Posner tackled the topic of credibility in their best-selling book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, originally published in 1993, with an updated version in 2011.
The results of what people surveyed feel are the most important traits of leaders were compiled into a table in the book called the Characteristics of Admired Leaders:
Honesty stands out clearly as the most important attribute.
Edward R Murrow described credibility this way:
For public officials at all levels, credibility must be earned through gaining the trust of the public they serve and credibility must be constantly maintained. When trust in leaders is lost, we can have revolt, rebellion and sometimes war.
Business leaders must have credibility with their employees, customers and business partners. Without credibility and cooperation, businesses cannot succeed. No one can do it all alone.
The history of our country is filled with stories of citizens who left their homelands to come to the shores of a new country to start over. Our democratic form of government was designed and built to give citizens ways of providing feedback about decisions made by government officials and to provide ways of holding public officials to a high standard of behavior.
We have the right to vote for public officials at all levels in this country. We have representation at various levels of government and we have the ability to recall public officials who lose the trust of those who voted for them.
We have a court system set up to allow for redress of our grievances and the right to appeal certain decisions all the way to the highest courts in our country, if needed.
Some recent case studies where credibility is at stake:
Case study #1. A developer submitted a plan that would violate existing open space plans that had been developed over a period of many years to protect delicate natural areas. The developer's proposal went to the county governing body and was approved over citizen protests and many signed petitions asking that the project as proposed be denied because it violates the master plans for the area. The area in question is part of the national forest and a very sparsely developed area.
Case study #2. A developer submitted a proposal that would require rezoning a section of an existing commercial area to a residential area and contained design elements that are not currently allowed in existing city zoning rules. The proposal was recommended for denial by the planning board until the plan conformed to the city’s existing zoning guidelines. The developer went to the city council and claimed that they met all the city’s requirements and, therefore, the project should be approved over the recommendation for denial by the planning board. Several misrepresentation of facts were documented in the developer’s testimony in public hearings at the planning board and the city council. The city council ignored those concerns, approved the rezoning and approved the project to go forward.
Case study #3. A developer built a large number of homes about 20 years ago and went bankrupt before finishing the project. Now, they are back in business and want to develop another area adjacent to the original project. There have been many public meetings and the developer started out with a lack of credibility and judged to be unreliable due to past behavior. Many of their proposals have been publicly challenged.
Case study #4. The local planning board for the above project (Case study #3) has been open to citizen input and listened to many expressed concerns about traffic and environmental issues. They hired a traffic specialist who recommended that one proposed entrance to the proposed project should be moved to a different location (as suggested by citizens). Moving that entrance alleviated most of the concerns about traffic and safety at the originally proposed location.
Once credibility is lost, it is hard to regain and requires much more work than continuing with good credibility. Once trust is lost, it takes a lot to overcome the mistrust and to find common ground again. People who lose trust in their leaders feel betrayed. A feeling of betrayal is one of the most difficult issues to overcome.
When people listen to each other — even with they disagree on some things — a lot of credibility is gained and trust can develop. Being honest, admitting mistakes and looking for ways to adjust to make a project better; all lead to improved credibility.
Dishonesty — real or perceived — is a fatal blow to credibility. Successful public officials and business leaders have learned how important it is to have the trust of those they serve. Leaders cannot function without trust and credibility. People will not follow leaders they don’t trust.
Business leaders and public officials are watched. Closely. They are very visible to many people. Even small mistakes can cost them important credibility and make doing their job more difficult.
All humans make mistakes. Even leaders and public officials. When a mistake happens, do they deny making a mistake, pretend it didn’t happen, refuse to accept responsibility or honestly "fess up" and try to do better? How they handle their mistakes is tied into their credibility. People are generally more receptive when people are honest about what happened, take responsibility for their actions and and try to remedy the mistake.
As a leader, how is your own credibility holding up?
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Related newsletter articles:
A man told his son “You may believe only fifty per cent of what you read in books, thirty per cent of what you read in newspapers, and about twenty per cent of what they say in the TV news. What else you want to believe (or not believe) depends on your sweet will”
It's not about how much movement you do, how much interaction there is. It just reeks of credibility if it's real. If it's contrived, it seems to work for a while for the people who can't filter out the real and unreal. ... Fred Durst (independent film maker)
All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses. ... Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher)
The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have ... Brian Koslow (American author and entrepreneur)
Consultants have credibility because they are not dumb enough to work at your company ... Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist)
Leaders aren't born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal ... Vince Lombardi (award winning football coach)
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time ... Abraham Lincoln
About our resource links: We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links. We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.
Page updated: October 16, 2023
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