The Credible leader: What makes others Follow

Credible leader

One can’t just go off boasting in front of a prospective client about credentials and expect them to trust you from the word go. And trust building is not something characteristic to just anyone’s field of work, it applies to everything. Especially, in situations when executive leadership coaching comes into picture, credibility acquires the highest place.

A great example of this is the time that Berkshire Hathaway made a 23 billion dollar acquisition from Walmart in a 2 hour meeting1. What would usually take months of negotiations, loads of paperwork and eat up the time and resources of many got solved so quickly and carried through smoothly because the companies trusted each other? They both came from positions of high credibility and did not need a barrage of accountants and auditors to verify every small detail before moving on with their decisions.

Credentials vs credibility

There’s a reason that top universities abroad do not only require a perfect academic record but reference and recommendation letters as well; sometimes, they even put a higher importance on the latter. It might well help you build expectations at work, but for people to be able to trust you, they’d need credibility more than just your credentials. It takes time and your actions over that time that make others see you as a credible person.

So instead of immediately expecting people to go along with what you say, a good strategy would be to make small claims that are easy to fulfil initially. When you keep fulfilling bigger and bigger claims over time, people will start to trust you and support you in delivering bigger goals.

Gaining Support with Rapport

Now, what are these actions that prove your trustworthiness? One of the ways to start off is by trying to build a rapport with people. And that in no way means trying to butter people up. That kind of pretence is easy to catch, and easier to loathe. For building a genuine rapport, you need to create a genuine interest in people. Talk to them, but more than that, listen to what they have to say. 

For building rapport, it’s important for you to talk clearly and lead conversations to important avenues tactfully. If your own perspective is different from that of your employees, validate other people’s points in conversations with them in a genuine manner, pause and then put forward your own. Make your opinions an extra layer on top of others rather than replacing their thoughts. This helps them know that you actually do see where they are coming from and become more ready to listen to what you have to say as well. 

Responding to Emotional Beings

People are not just motivated only by the promise of money but also by praise, recognition and genuine relationship building2. Ask frequent questions about what your team members think, what was their experience of doing a recent task and what they think can change. 

This starts a positive loop where they will feel more driven to perform and deliver according to your expectations because you care about their needs. When you give them feedback about their performance and praise good results, this loop gets sustained and both their commitment and the results from the same keep growing. 

Impact on Leadership

A research study3 conducted on administrative officials and city board members showed that leadership credibility is how cooperation and innovation move forward in administration. When the leader is perceived to be credible, board members and staff listen to each other, sub-groups communicate more and innovative measures are taken more often. 

Without perceived credibility, what seems to happen is essentially a gap of trust or any willingness to play along. Employees don’t trust the leader and do not put in their best to fulfil any demands or delegation of work. On the other hand, with credibility people are willing to try different things and even put their personal loyalties at stake for your ambitions. 

Star Mindset

To show integrity and credibility, leaders share generous amounts of information in an effort to show transparency. Decisions are made collaboratively and with the information available to all rather than behind closed doors without any knowledge of the why and how of decisions. Leader that admits to their flaws, shares information and continuously fulfil specific measurable claims that they make are sure to garner clout. They know their capabilities and have realistic expectations which they keep projecting. 

When you can read the room and realize that people are actually on your side, that’s when you become ambitious and ascribe high expectations. This may be unpalatable right off the bat when people don’t yet have enough belief in your abilities, but after a string of small deliveries, you can definitely ask them to put their best forward in high-stake situations. In such a scenario, credibility leads to more credibility, and this ever-growing currency is what you cash in for getting to the top. 

3 Immediately Applicable Steps 

  1. Every week, make one goal that you share with your employees and work towards bringing it to fruition by the end of the week. 
  2. Once a day, have a 10 minute one-on-one with an employee where you ask them what was their experience working on the last task they were assigned and what changes they think would help the experience.
  3. Once a month, have a discussion with your teammates where there is no hierarchy and anyone can say anything they feel honestly without fearing repercussions. 


In the fast-paced dynamic world that we are living in today, credibility is the factor that keeps us grounded; in times of rapidly changing needs of our market-driven society, you need to be able to trust your team, your co-workers, and your colleagues to help you attain your best. But, you can never expect people to trust you when you know you haven’t given them a reason to. What sets a star leader apart from the crowd is the fact they know that trust can only be earned; there’s no shortcut to it. #BeAStar