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This is How Credibility is The Foundation of Leadership Development

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Gareth Thompson // cc by 2.0 //

Do You Cultivate the Art of Followership?

Many organizations struggle to identify and develop emerging leaders, yet in an interesting twist, many millennials or emerging leaders will leave an organization due to lack of leadership development opportunities. Here's a question for HR and OD specialists, leaders, and managers alike: If leadership is defined by having followers, then why does anybody follow you?

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner ask simple questions such as this about the fundamentals of leadership in their perennial best-seller, The Leadership Challenge. They assert that we follow people we believe are credible – competent, honest, forward-thinking, and inspirational.

These are the characteristics people look for in a credible leader. Most people are drawn toward someone they would willingly work for, enjoy working with, and want to work harder for. 

What effect does credibility have in terms of behavior? Through their research, Kouzes and Posner found that when people perceive their immediate manager to have high credibility, they are more likely to:

  • Feel pride in telling others they are part of the organization
  • Have a strong sense of team spirit
  • See how their own personal values are consistent with those of the organization
  • Feel ownership in the outcomes of the organization

Having strong leadership credibility goes beyond just employee attitudes; customers and investors are also influenced by credibility. So how do leaders become the kind of leader that people want to follow?

To take a page from The Leadership Challenge, leaders need a chance to learn and practice. They need a roadmap for leadership development.

To take action, a leader might embark on the following activities to help develop as a leader and cultivate followers:

Clarify Values: The very first step to becoming an exemplary leader is to discover and clarify the fundamental beliefs that guide your decisions and actions.

Set the Example: When you are a leader, you are always on stage. People are watching, testing, and talking about you, so getting it right and setting the right example is important.

Envision the Future: Leaders must be able to focus on and explain a vision of the future that inspires others.

Enlist Others: Exemplary leaders make others feel proud to be part of something extraordinary. It's not just about their vision, it's about bringing others along with them.

Search for Opportunities: Great leaders see opportunities everywhere and receive them from anyone.

Experiment and Take Risks: To improve, leaders must grow, innovate, improve, and shake things up.

Collaborate With Others: "We're all in this together" and "I can't do it alone" are just as essential as "you are doing a great job."  

Strengthen Others: Seeing the possibility of growth and leadership in others is an essential function of a great leader, developing the competence and confidence of others.

Recognize Contributions: Even if it is just a simple "thank you," exemplary leaders recognize and appreciate the work of their teams and have a positive expectation that people will perform their best.

Celebrate Values and Victories: Look for opportunities to celebrate team and individual accomplishments, with personal and sincere recognition. Whether that is a big group acknowledgment or a private "thank you," leaders make sure accomplishments don't go unnoticed.

If you are interested in improving as a leader, improving your organizations's leaders, or cultivating and encouraging followers, attending The Leadership Challenge® Workshop is an investment that pays leadership dividends. Registration for The Leadership Challenge Workshop in Sonoma, California closes August 29.

Need a leadership boost? In the 8 minute video below, The Leadership Challenge co-author Barry Posner asserts that we follow people we believe are credible – competent, honest, forward-thinking, and inspirational. He also outlines the simple truth about becoming a better leader: If we don't believe the message, we won't believe the messenger.


The Leadership Challenge in Sonoma

Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill is FlashPoint’s brand engagement strategist. She curates web, email, and social content to help organizations develop their leaders and teams.