Credibility is essential for leaders to be effective, but how important is it for leaders-in-transition?
A lack of credibility can contribute to high rates of leadership transition failure and for the participants in my study, credibility was a frequently mentioned as a promoter of transition success. Based on either reputation or early actions, leaders-in-transition found that credibility afforded them an accelerated adoption of their ideas, suggestions and plans. Where the leader does not enter with reputational credibility, s/he must establish it early in the transition period.
For one leader, who came into the new role with a strong reputation of success in another organisation, she experienced a high level of credibility early. However, credibility based on reputation has a shelf life and can not be relied on long-term unless it is supported by appropriate activities, decisions and actions during the transition period. Although it boosted their transition performance, leaders needed to re-establish and continue developing it during the transition for it to be a sustained advantage.
How do you build credibility during your transition?
Ask questions, admit what you don’t know, take corrective action only, do what you say you are going to do and then ask more questions. The key is to be vulnerable and humble in your new role. Yes, you are the leader and brought in to lead, direct and make decisions, but at the start you lack the understanding and the relationships to be effective.
Credibility for leaders-in-transition are assessed by their willingness to learn / engage and the absence of making pre-determined or quick changes before they are deemed (by the team and stakeholders) to have taken the appropriate amount of time to truly understand the people and the organisation.
A great question I encourage leaders-in-transition to ask early is, “what questions should I be asking?” In other words, what should I be asking about to really understand this situation / person / project etc? Early on you don’t know what you don’t know, you will be surprised at what you learn when you ask, ‘what should I be asking here?”