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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #120: Five Lessons for Making or Breaking Your Leadership Credibility

January 21, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #120: Five Lessons for Making or Breaking Your Leadership Credibility

Are you a leader with credibility? How you see yourself––your leadership mindset–– can either help or undermine your credibility as a leader. Today, Chris and Perry will discuss five areas that can positively affect your leadership mindset if you attend to them properly.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Geode, vice-president with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. Just as a reminder, if you would like to download the learner guide that Perry has created for us, maybe you’d like to leave a question or a comment, learn more, a little bit more about what we do as an organization to help leadership culture in organizations around the world, don’t hesitate to visit

Well, today’s topic, we’re going to continue down this developing the leadership mindset, which we’re really excited about as we kind of kick off the year. And so today we’re going to talk about five lessons. Again, here’s Perry throwing a number in a title. I told you that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree here at the John Maxwell enterprise and five lessons for making or breaking your leadership credibility. And so we’re going to continue to talk about this, about how your mindset can affect your credibility as a leader.

And I think as we dive into this, credibility is something that sometimes people don’t truly understand how credibility is given or it’s received or what it’s thought about. And it’s like, oh, that’s credible resource, that’s a credible leader, but really it starts with the mindset that leads to producing that then leads to you becoming credible in what you do. And so Perry, looking forward to diving in with you today, thanks for putting this together for us.

Perry Holley:    My pleasure. And it’s one of the things I think great outcomes that people like you and I get to work with some of the best leaders in this country and around the world in our speaking and coaching and teaching businesses. But we also get to see what makes a leader great. And sometimes what breaks a leader. And so I’ve just been thinking about it and got these five areas and there’s more, but I want to stick with my team of five.

Chris Goede:     You like the number five. I like the number five, yeah, I appreciate that.

Perry Holley:    I thought you might fall off your chair if I said six or nine, so. But these things that can positively or negatively affect your leadership mindset. And I thought maybe I’d get you to comment on a few of these and we’ll just run through them quickly.

Chris Goede:     Love it.

Perry Holley:    But number one about your credibility is often tied to your competence as a leader. Are you really skilled in the area in which you are leading? And I was wondering how you, we have this debate from time to time on whether competence is as important as the people’s , people that aren’t competent. So what do you think?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I love this exercise and I’ve seen you do it to where it’s this or that. We get in a room with leaders and we’re like, hey, it’s kind of like the would you rather, if you play that with your kids or your family, this is this or that. And we’d say, “Hey, as a leader, which one’s more important? Would you rather competence or commitment?” And it’s interesting as we get the perspective of different people and sometimes I ask the question, how many of you have followed a leader that was not very competent, but yet they showed up and they were committed. And hands go up, they start telling these stories.

And so, man, I think this, when you talk about competence, this is the ticket to admission. This is what allows you in the room. It’s allows you to get there. Now what’s going to keep you there is that age old discussion we have around the EQ and the IQ. The IQ is going to get you there, the competence. The EQ is what’s going to keep you there. You’re going to lose credibility as soon as your team begins to think that you’re not competent enough in the role, and it’s really going to hurt you as a leader.

Perry Holley:    Well, I’ve noticed, it’s funny, it’s happening right now in the United States is that every time we change presidents and the president, the new president, the incoming president needs to announce their cabinet selections and their department heads. The first thing you hear from outside observers is, well, that person has no experience in that area. And it’s happening right now. There’s a couple that have been like, well, they’ve never done that.

Chris Goede:     Right.

Perry Holley:    So what happens in the business world? What happens if you get promoted or asked to lead in an area where you don’t have a lot of experience or that you may not have a lot of competence yet? Should you not take the promotion?

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Chris Goede:     No. If I would’ve said yes, I think we would have lost all of our listeners. The quickest decline of a podcast in 2021, Perry and Chris said, no, don’t take the promotion. No, absolutely you should take it. And I think all of us are going to be in positions in our life to where we’re not going to be competent in areas that we’ve been asked to lead, to step up. I think people have belief in us. We talk about that, right? Like we have to have belief in our people because we have people that have believed in us to be able to do some things that we weren’t competent at.

But here’s where I want to challenge you, because there are great leaders of people and teams that are not competent in necessarily the skill of what’s going on, that they got promoted to, and so my encouragement to you is, man, is to be curious. I know you love talking about this word curiosity, but to accelerate your learning so that you can become credible. You don’t have to be the most credible person when it comes to that skillset on your team, but you do have to have some knowledge, some competence in order for you to be credible. And so just learn the basics of that.

And I think it’s sometimes, maybe more than we should, we see leaders be like, I know all the answers and they’re not open to other people’s point of view. They’re not teachable. And I think if as a leader, you can be consistent, which again is one of my favorite words to talk about with leadership and to be teachable and willing to learn, I think that your team will have a little patience with you, but I also think that you will become credible in a very short amount of time because of your ability to learn.

And so I think what makes competence is either experience or teachable-ness, we just talked about that. And then I think what breaks competence is having the lack of experience, not knowing, which will happen at times, but then you’re just not growing. You’re not learning from the team. You’re not asking questions. You are, Hey, I have all of the answers. And I was listening to a CEO the other day. And he was saying, “I made a decision. I told the board when I got promoted to the role, I said, you won’t see me for nine months.” And they’re like, what?

And they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, no, no, no, no. I don’t need an office for nine months.” And they kind of sat back and looked at them and he said, “Because I am going to go out in the field and I’m going to visit every location and I’m going to spend time and I’m going to walk the floors and I’m going to ask questions”, so that he obviously could connect with them from an EQ standpoint, but more importantly, get the competence of what it was maybe not the most credible source in competence, but get the competence of what it was taken to achieve what that organization was trying to do.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. You know, I was thinking, you and I have talked about it. Our team was reading the book American Icon, Alan Mulally story and when you were just talking I’m thinking about Alan going from, so he’s building airplanes in Seattle for Boeing and gets asked to come run a car company. And the first thing somebody said was, “What experience do you have in cars and automobiles?” You know, nothing. But he knew his competence was maybe not in the specific product, it was in how to run a business and how to connect with people and how to put in the systems and processes. And he can learn the car piece of it.

Chris Goede:     That’s right.

Perry Holley:    And he did. Love that story, one of the best books I read last year.

Chris Goede:     Yeah and I think he also made a comment too, he talks about in the book and the press conference where, they kept pushing them on it and finally he’s like, “Hey, okay. All right. All right, listen. However many parts an airplane is made of, and it flies.” And then he’s like, “The automobile has this number of parts and it stays on the ground, so I think we can figure this out” kind of thing.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, it’s big numbers, too, there’s like a million parts in the car. He said like 22 million parts to the plane and it flies.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

Perry Holley:    All right, number two lesson, really just continuing the thought about that EQ thing you were just talking about, I think that where you can either help or hurt your credibility is how well do you work with people and really what makes your credibility stronger is the ability to be able to connect and engage. I think what breaks your credibility is failing to connect with people or to generate the buy-in to what you’re doing and establishing full engagement with the team. But how do you, you just commented a little bit on the EEQ side, but continue the thought on how well you work with people as far as your credibility as a leader.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. This is something that man, you and I are so passionate about and have seen leaders that have done it well, succeed at the highest level, and seen leaders that don’t understand how to do this well and really struggle. And it goes back to the five levels model, really what you’re talking about here is the level two, the people oriented side of influence, and then level three, the production side of influence. We all are naturally wired one way or the other, but the key is we’ve got to be able to do both. First of all, we got to be aware enough to understand where we are kind of naturally gifted and wired to be able to understand that. And then we have to develop learned behaviors to be able to beat to the other side.

We talk a lot about where we see a lot of turnover in teams is that the leader comes in and goes straight to the production mindset and he skips level two. And so he just focuses on the production and he’s running over or she’s running over their team. And so we’re losing good people out the back and we’re losing credibility as a leader because leader is so much more than just producing. Then we do have leaders, right? The relationship level and people are in, people are like, dear God, are we ever going to do anything, accomplish anything, right? Let’s not just sit around here and talk. What are the action steps and how do we move forward? And then you get people that you’re losing there and you’re losing credibility because you’re not producing for the organization. And so when it comes to this, I really think that you have to, I know you have to do both, you have to connect and drive results.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Very good. And we talk about it, it’s easier sometimes for us on that relationship side, that we have to focus on the production side. Others, really good at production, have to focus on the relationship. But to your point, you have to do both. Number three lesson is around your character and I realize as I’m reading this, I probably should have made this number one because if your a character is out of whack, your IQ and EQ don’t really matter. Your credibility is already blown. But I made it number three because people can usually observe your IQ, your competence at the job, and your EQ, your ability to work with others, your emotional intelligence, how you interact, they can observe those early on in the relationship.

Character kind of reveals itself over time. So just give your thoughts, it’s kind of broad, very broad subject, but it can really undermine your credibility as a leader if you’re not running at the highest level of character.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and when you talk about character, what comes to my mind is obviously honesty, integrity, kind of transparency, which leads me into this authenticity. And we talk about the more authentic we can be with our team and with our people, I think the more credibility that we’re going to have as a leader. And you talk about this all the time that people are watching you all the time, right? And so your behaviors are on display continually. And so you’ve got to make sure that they line up, that that behavior aligns up with the talk. The walk and the talk are in sync in order for you to have this credibility that we’re talking about here today, inside your team and inside your organization.

And then we also talk about consistency and I think it can break your credibility if you’re inconsistent. And I think I’ve shared this example on this podcast, maybe in a previous session about we work with a fairly large organization, publicly traded and probably the most influential lady or leader in the organization in the C-suite is the executive vice president’s executive assistant. And she simply places a coffee mug depending on how the temperament that day of the leader is. And so it’s one or another color and people walk by and they know whether or not they’re going in that office. And that’s just a lot of inconsistency, so that leader doesn’t have credibility.

And so, as you begin to thinking about that and character, I think this is so good, and you got to make sure that the walk and the talk align, make sure you’re consistent, and then a big word to us is really authentic. How do you lead people authentically? People, it’s interesting too, because they talk a lot about, well, I’m one way at home and one way at work, or I have values at home and values at work. And it reminds me of even John telling the story about during the Enron scandal, people came to him and said, “Hey, we need you to write a book on ethics.” And he’s like, “Can’t do that.” What do you mean you can’t do that? Well, there’s no such thing. What do you mean? Well, it’s just ethics. It’s not business ethics. So it’s the same way here with your character. I want it to be the same as in your kind of personal life as it is and your professional life.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, very good. And it shows up when people are watching and they will know. Number four lesson I think can make or break your credibility is how are you at setting standards and expectations with your team? I’ve found that when your team is clear about where they’re going and what’s expected of them and how we’re going to get there, they view you as a much more credible leader. And I think the better I can do at setting that picture in front of them and continually returning to how we do things here, what are the standard operating procedures, how we operate, what our expectations are of each other, including you, that people begin to buy into you as a credible leader.Chris Goede:     Yeah. This goes back to not knowing the goal, the desired outcome. It talks about how the, I love John, where he talks about the disappointment gap, where he basically says, “Hey, between reality and expectations is the disappointment gap.” And so you have to be able to set the proper standard and expectations in order for there not to be disappointment. Doesn’t mean that there won’t be confrontation, that there won’t be friction, there won’t be tension, there won’t be success, but it’s just how do you avoid that from a disappointment area? And so you got to do your best not to have confusion, which will then drive disengagement of the team. And so again, make sure what will make this happen is that you’re sharing a clear vision, your priorities, your expectations, get into rhythms with your teams, so that they know what to expect.

And then what will break this credibility in this area is you’ve been on those teams before where it’s just, it’s chaos. It’s okay if it’s organized chaos, right? But not if it’s just chaos and you’re just like this leader right here. And we’re all thinking about somebody. And so you got to make sure that you don’t go down that path and get everyone on the same page, make sure they know how you’re going to accomplish the goal, make sure they know how they’re tied into the mission, what you’re expecting from them. And really think about that gap that I was talking about that John shares between the expectations and reality is that disappointment. And in that gap, you have to take some ownership as a leader because somewhere you missed it when it came to setting the standards and expectations per your point there.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Good. I was just making a note of that. I don’t know that I’ve heard that before. It’s good. See, I learned something on the podcast.

Chris Goede: Hey listen, I agree.

Perry Holley:    All right, number five think that can hurt your credibility and as part of a leader mindset is I just used one word was accountability, could be how you handle accountability. Do you promote accountability? I just think about it myself as do you follow up and follow through? You think about the most credible leaders you know, and you know without a doubt they’re a credible leader is that they follow up, they follow through, they ask the tough questions, they get to reveal what’s important. You actually figured out as a leader that the questions you ask reveal what you think is important. The people know that you hold yourself as accountable for the commitments that have been made as well as others. So I think accountability is a big word that’s often overlooked as how important it is to a leader’s credibility.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And I think you did a really good job right there just even just talking about the things that do make the credibility, and then just the opposite of that is what will ruin kind of your credibility. There’s nothing more frustrating than for a team member to be in a team meeting, the leader kind of says, this is what we’re going to do, this is where we’re going, this is what we have to accomplish. And then that individual is doing that and is hitting those KPIs and is doing whatever it takes. And then some others aren’t. And it’s never being talked about. It’s never being discussed. They’re not being held accountable to that.

And so I think as you begin to put your KPIs out there, make sure you have, and if it’s something that you’re not good at in regards to holding people accountable, just put a system in place that allows you to do that, whatever that might look like. And there are many different ones that you can do that. We work with leaders all the time. Some are very comfortable with it. Matter of fact, I think that’s their love language. And then we work with some that are not, and we have to walk through that with them.

So as we kind of wrap up here in this just really great conversation around the five lessons of making or breaking your leadership credibility, I don’t think that, and this is going to, well, I know this is painful for Perry and I because we naturally fall into the level two relational side. I don’t think that as leaders we can accomplish anything of significance without truly understanding how to become a credible leader. And that doesn’t start at level three, the production side, but it definitely goes through that. And so I want to challenge those that are highly relational to really examine where they’re at when it comes to this credibility of producing and holding accountable and going through, making sure that they do have the competence. They don’t need all the competence, that’s what the team is for. But at least they’re asking questions and they’re comfortable in their skin to seek a point of view.

And then I want to challenge those that are our production mindset, that simply they do get it done and they’re going to lose their credibility if they just continue running over their team. And if they continue to, people are running out the back door quicker than they’re coming in the front door to join their team. And so just think through these, hopefully these five that Perry brought to us added value to you and your leadership credibility.

Perry Holley:    Fantastic. Thank you, Chris. And if you want to review those five, they are in the learner guide that you can download from There’s a place to leave a comment there. Do you want to tell us what some others are that you think damage someone’s leadership credibility? I’d love to hear those from you. You can also learn more about the five levels of leadership there. Leave us comments or questions. We’re always glad to have you along. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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