Written by B. Lynn Gordon (former SDSU Extension Agricultural Leadership Specialist).
If you were asked, ‘What is the foundation of leadership?’ What would say? Oftentimes, a common answer is communication. Communication is an important element in leading people. Developing ones’ communication skills is always helpful and positive to the growth of an individual. Research however has shown credibility is the foundation of leadership (Kouzes and Posner, 2014).
Setting an Example
It boils down to this simple reason, leaders must, ‘Do What You Say You Will Do’. As you grow in your leading abilities you will soon learn that doing what you say you will do is as crucial as what you say. Leaders are often very noticeable. They are leading meetings, speaking at events, giving instructions to middle management, presenting the strategic plan for the organization, or for today’s farms and ranches training or interviewing employees. A leader is visible. As a result, followers such as employees, volunteers, committee members, etc., are watching your actions. They are measuring their willingness to accept you as a leader. In fact, how a leader spends their time, what they take interest in, what questions they ask, and how they speak to issues, topics, etc., gives followers a chance to measure the leader’s credibility. It also gives the leader the opportunity to demonstrate the principles/values they represent.
As a leader, setting an example is your foundation to build credibility and trust. Without credibility you may end up being a leader of one — yourself. Credibility is built when leaders show by example, how deeply committed they are to their values particularly when those values are also shared by a follower. When you take on the responsibility of being a leader, people watch your every action, sometimes even people or stakeholders you might not think are watching you are determining your credibility level.
Some examples of how followers determine if someone is credible: 1) can they believe the person; 2) does the person back up what they say with their actions; 3) do they keep promises; and 4) do they walk the talk. For instance, leaders don’t ask others to do something they wouldn’t be willing to do or have experienced themselves.
As you go about your actions in the days ahead — if you are in a leadership role or a role where someone looks up to you, remember, you are sending signals each and every day and your followers measure those signals to determine if they will chose to follow you.