Thinking Like a Leader – Credibility

By Mark Rulle

When a leader has credibility, people willingly follow.  When a leader lacks credibility, people do what they must do to get by, and generally become disengaged.  Disengagement can result in higher turnover and toxic behavior, affecting morale throughout and bringing the entire unit or department down.

The work of leadership – building trust and credibility – can easily slide to the side with daily meetings, tasks and interruptions.  Credibility thrives with positive attention, dies with negative attention, and withers away if ignored.

Becoming an exemplary leader, one who achieves results, starts with developing credibility and credibility begins with trust.  While leadership credibility is comprised of other elements, without trust there will be no credibility.

It’s no secret how leaders can build trust with their associates.  Make promises and keep them.  Engage in straight talk.  Seek to right perceived wrongs, and listen with intent.

These seem like obvious actions that don’t require much forethought.  However, thinking that would be a mistake.

When we don’t give conscious thought to something, gaps can occur and our habits take over causing us to lead with our personality – the strengths and weaknesses that make up our “self.”  This can result in a potential loss of credibility if – on a type of auto pilot – we do not think through how our actions might diminish trust among associates.  When a leader makes credibility and building trust a conscious and continuous process, those gaps are filled with positive trust building actions, which maintains trust, and leads to further leadership credibility.

In one of the Maryland Healthcare Education Institute’s recent mid-level management boot camp sessions, a nurse manager shared that there were so many changes and new policies and initiatives coming at her and her team, that she wasn’t always able to be available for her staff.  She consciously  began to set aside time to be present and give the team a safe place to voice their thoughts, concerns and reactions.  This seemed to work well.   While she recognized that doing this meant more “work” for her, she believed it helped to build and maintain her credibility – especially during those tough times.

Staying connected through a variety of techniques including e-mail, text and technology, daily huddles, one-on-one rounding, and maintaining a regular presence on the unit, helped this manager demonstrate empathy around her team’s needs and perspectives.  There was purpose in her actions.  As issues, concerns, or challenges unexpectedly came up, this manager stayed connected, listened, and took action.  And when she needed to she was able to follow through and circle back to her team.  All of this demonstrated to them that their voice was heard and she was there to support them.  In their eyes she was credible.  In our eyes she was thinking (and acting) like a leader.

Mark Rulle is President of the Maryland Healthcare Education Institute.

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