The human hand fills the last missing elements of the surface from the jigsaw puzzle. Image with words leadership and credibility

“You don’t have a message, you are the message.”  Father Leo

My son was 16 and in a recovery program when I first heard the above quote. Father Leo is a recovering alcoholic, who also happens to be a priest. The quote was actually said by Father Leo’s AA sponsor as a reminder. This message had such importance 17 years ago with my son. It remains important to me as I work with leaders and others in helping them become more effective professionals and people.

Most of us understand the concept of having ‘credibility’ as part of opening doors professionally. What some of us fail to see is the critical differences in the types of credibility there is and how we create that. Often, this is where we get to meet our “authentic self,” or not.

I heard from a few of you regarding my piece on the moon landing. I was not only interested to hear from those of you that were ‘there’ (living at the time), but to understand the interest from those of you too young to know about the moon landing, other than as you studied it in school. Thank you for your thoughts and rememberances.

Let’s see what we can explore about this month’s topic.

Be well and do your best work,


How Have You Created Your Credibility?

As many of you know, I like questions. Not because I like to give answers, but because I like to know what answers you have. This month’s topic is no exception. We talk about certain traits or attributes of good leaders; we talk about knowledge, skill, execution; we talk about relationship building. They are all important, particularly if you want to lead. But, before any of the other, or at least along side some of the others, we must first establish our credibility.

Credibility is defined as the quality of being trusted and believed in. Some of the synonyms are: trustworthiness · reliability · dependability · integrity · character · reputation · standing · status. This implies to me that the first step is often about ‘who’ we are and how we act. Some people I have coached believed that the most important part of their credibility was what they knew. How smart were they? How good a problem solver? For them, it was about the work they were capable of producing. Over time, some of those that I coached understood that being the “smartest person in the room” wasn’t always what was most important.

Along side of ‘knowledge’ is ‘skill.’ How well do I apply what I have learned? When we think about our ‘success’ in our first job, one of the first questions is, “How well did he do with what he was given to do?”  Our ability to be promoted was inextricably tied to how we ‘executed’ our job.

I believe that of equal or greater value in establishing our credibility is ‘who’ we are while we were producing those results. Were we reliable? Dependable? A person of high character (known to do what was right)? Able to create and sustain relationships? Able to create influence as a result of our ability to build relationships?

I don’t believe they (knowledge, skill, and you) develop independent from one another (although they can). My observation is that they develop in tandem. The ‘who’ I am choosing to become is a very different type of question from what skill or knowledge do I need to acquire. The ‘who’ question feels  more ‘right brain,’ while knowledge and skill feel more left brain, more tangible. Perhaps that is why some people are more comfortable focusing on the more tangible.

The most successful people recognize that they need to have all three. They need to understand how to be the ‘who’ they want to become, and how and where to get the skills and knowledge they need to establish that they know what they are doing.

I have found that one thing that is most helpful in figuring out our ‘who’ is to reflect on ‘who’ we want to become. Reflection allows us the space in which to decide our intention of our who. How we ‘evolve’ in this area starts very early. From the time we are very little we are eliciting reactions from those around us concerning our behaviors. If we respond well to the adults around us we are rewarded. If we don’t respond well, then we are not rewarded; sometimes punished. As we become more sophisticated with our responses we learn more about how the choices we make work out. This offers us an opportunity to reflect and begin to refine our choices accordingly. Sometimes, time in ‘time out’ helps to facilitate our reflection and our learning.

With more experience we can reflect on what ‘trustworthy’ behavior looks like, or what a person with high ‘character’ looks like. We can then decide if we want to be more trustworthy, and/or more dependable, a person with a good reputation. We begin to understand what are the ‘behaviors’ of trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, a person of high character. We have the opportunity to string together a series of choices that support the version of ourselves we want to become.

Are we that intentional in our evolution of who we are becoming? My observation for most is no. We may state an intention of who we want to be, but the consistency with which we go about he journey is often full of detours, littered with choices that didn’t go as well. Those different choices may have cast some doubt on our reliability, or trustworthiness, or other parts of our behavior. Our ‘who’ is about consistency. It takes increased maturity and some failure to motivate us to make the ‘mid-course’ corrections.

The acquisition of skill and knowledge can also have their own detours depending on how difficult it is and how much it means to us to acquire either or both. Again, evolution.

At the end of the day, we need both the ‘who’ of you and the necessary knowledge and skill to establish credibility. We know this, yet the stories we could tell of how we came to be the person we are, and how we acquired the knowledge, skills, and experience that helped get us to where we are would be full of some very ‘interesting’ tales; along with some sweat equity.

If you are still in a place of becoming, take a few moments to reflect on that journey and how it is going. Are you happy with who you are becoming? Is it helping you get what you want out of your career and your life? Is there a choice or choices that you need to make to get more of what you want? Are you willing to do that?

Is there something you need to know, some skill you need to acquire, that would get you further along in your career? What would it take to do that? Are you willing to do that?

Life can be complicated and full of difficult questions and choices; it can be full of abundance and opportunity as well. What is your credibility? How well do you know yourself (your behavioral tendencies, what your values, attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs are and how they drive you, your character (including your integrity), and how trustworthy are you? Your credibility – the sum total of who you are and what you know and can do is a critical part of the foundation of your career and your life. Oh, and don’t be surprised if it isn’t a straight line – sometimes those ‘detours’ contain our best opportunity to learn.

To your journey and living out the best version of you…



Of InterestHow people around you are judging your management potential.