5 Insights About Credibility

Image Source: Unsplash by Eberhard-grosseberhard-grossgasteiger-4Tb3AXkkcag

Without character, there is no credibility; and without credibility, there is no trust. The most essential quality for leadership is not perfection but credibility.” — Warren Bennis, recognized as a pioneer in the field of Leadership

Credibility is important in all aspects of life, in all relationships both personal and professional.

There’s so much happening in today’s workplace that affects people, I decided to focus on leadership credibility. Still, similarities between credibility’s meaning and impact can be found in most types of relationships. So it may be worthwhile to read this post whether your primary interest is personal or professional. I hope you’ll respond to this with comments.


1. Credibility is an Outcome of Behavior

How would you define “credibility?” What words would you associate with “credibility?”

To me, it’s honesty, reliability, caring about the success and well-being of others, integrity, and courage. It’s a collection of consistently demonstrated traits and capabilities that earn the trust and confidence of other people. In Merriam Webster, credibility is defined as “the quality or power of inspiring belief.”1

However each of us defines it, we probably all agree people need their own credibility to be rock solid if they want to influence and/or lead others at work. While credibility is built over time, it can be undermined and even lost in an instant; when that happens, it can sometimes, but not always, be re-built.

2. Credibility isn’t something we can take for granted.

Trust is a critical component of credibility. In the years preceding the pandemic, trust had been on a downward trend that was cited by Harvard Business Review, One Model, and other leading publications as having reached an all-time low. Until recently, we’ve seen surveys reporting employee trust of both business leaders and colleagues languishing between 49% and 51%.

As companies began to prepare to re-open, only 14% of employees trusted their company leadership to lead them back to work safely. At the same time, the “great resignation” has made turnover and staffing struggles pervasive across industries.

3. The Unique Opportunity That is Now

But, a significant shift is unfolding now! The Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 brings to light exciting survey information: “My employer” is now the most trusted of any institution, at 77%, and workers expect business leadership to be the “face of change.”

Now that business has achieved what is potentially the highest level of trust it has enjoyed in decades (if not ever before) leaders who quickly recognize this and act to re-shape their employee work experience to meet the changing expectations of the workforce could not only increase their credibility even more but could build favorable levels of employee engagement.

It has long been recognized that engaged employees are our highest performers. Developing a comprehensive, current understanding of what people want from work going forward is likely to take some time.

Reacting swiftly to drive broad-based change in job design, hiring practices, employment policies and company culture (i.e. not just improving compensation, benefits and work schedules) could make the difference between success and failure in hiring and retention for both the short and the long term. Will your organization let go of long-standing beliefs, traditions, practices and attitudes to make such a transformation?

The window of opportunity for this strategic change is wide open now. It’s the optimum time, because trust, credibility and expectations of business leaders are at such high levels. People are looking for leaders to take action, to re-think and to re-create the experience of work.

4. Together, Character & Competence Form the Keystone of Credibility

As the keystone, character and competence are the central principles on which credibility depends. What constitutes character and competence?


Character is the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. It’s made up of a group of qualities and attributes that set one person apart from another. Character is rooted in the following:

  • Integrity: having the courage to act in alignment with one’s values, beliefs, promises and commitments; concern for the well-being of others i.e. stakeholders
  • Honesty: demonstrated in ways such as fairness, truthfulness, transparency, discretion
  • Authenticity: humility, self-awareness, and self-mastery including knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, and managing one’s own behavior


Competence is a set of knowledge, skills and approaches that is continually growing and reliably applied. It includes the following:

  • Intent: one’s agenda, purposes underlying actions, clarity and quality of communications and decisions
  • Capabilities: knowledge, skills, expertise, talents and judgment
  • Follow-through: intensity of focus, unifying people in a shared direction, achieving results, outcomes, performance goals and impact; taking responsibility for one’s actions

5. You Can Assess Your Own Credibility

People often assume their own credibility is high. But, we don’t always see ourselves as others see us, do we? Sometimes this is due to blind-spots we all have at different times or in certain relationships. This can also be caused by our own biases or beliefs. And, there are times we arrive at beliefs about others that aren’t the accurate pictures our intuition or gut feelings would have us think.

Failure to build our self-awareness, to see ourselves as others do, can lead to lack of credibility and result in inability to achieve what’s important to us. It can cause us to make flawed choices.

Soliciting feedback from others may not always succeed in uncovering difficult truths about ourselves. People are often uncomfortable and less open in providing feedback. Some may be reluctant to create conflict. We may not always be willing to accept the truth in someone’s feedback. And, others may fear retaliation for giving this type of feedback.

Tools and information such as the following provide three areas you may decide to check out further as you determine ways you might assess your own credibility:

What’s Next?

Here in our first article on Credibility, we jumped in with a definition and shared our perceptions, thoughts, experience and opinions about the source of credibility. We noted tools to help assess this as set of behaviors, skills and attributes in ourselves and others.

In the future, we’ll explore how to build credibility, what credibility looks like in the workplace, how credibility can be damaged or lost, and how to strive to re-build it when that happens.

Did we spark insights or inspire you? Did you decide to try out one of the assessment tools? We’ll look forward to your thoughts, opinions, experience and suggestions.

“2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Reveals Even Greater Expectations of Business to Lead as Government Trust Continues to Spiral, ” LINK: https://www.edelman.com/news-awards/2022-edelman-trust-barometer-reveals-even-greater-expectations-business-lead-government-trust

Trust Has Never Been More Important – SHRM LINK: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/pages/trust-has-never-been-more-important.aspx

Why Some Leaders Have Their Employees’ Trust, and Some Don’t – Gallup LINK: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/258197/why-leaders-employees-trust-don.aspx

The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill, published by Simon & Schuster 2006

Smart Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey and Greg Link with Rebecca R. Merrill, published by Simon & Schuster 2012

Execution The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Copyright 2002, Published by Crown Business

Credibility How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Foreword by Tom Peters, Copyright 1993, Published by Jossey-Bass

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling, copyright 2012, 2021 by Franklin Covey, Published by Simon & Schuster

1 – Merriam Webster LINK: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/credibility

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