When I became the leader of a mid-sized aerospace company in the mid-90s, I made it a practice to walk through the manufacturing and office areas on a frequent basis. My predecessor rarely left the executive hallway. With a finance background, he was not comfortable in a factory environment with union employees or with the technical mumbo-jumbo of the engineering department. So when I began to walk around, it was a really big deal to the employees. I got immediate feedback like, “It sure is nice to have the president in the factory.”
Ivory tower leaders have little credibility. You don’t want to hear “Who is that masked man?” when you venture out of your office. Even if they know what you look like, you don’t want to hear, “What’s he doing out here? Did someone mess up?”
Leadership expert John Maxwell rates credibility as more important than vision:
“…if he has not built credibility with his people,
it doesn’t really matter how great a vision he has.”
In their must-read book, The Leadership Challenge (1st edition 1987; now in 4th edition; more than one million copies in twelve languages), James Kouzes and Barry Posner conclude that credibility is the foundation of leadership:
“…more than anything, people want leaders who are credible.
Credibility is the foundation of leadership…
Loyalty, commitment, energy and productivity depend upon it.”
If they are right, and I believe they are, earning credibility with your constituents is a high priority for leaders. Here is what is so amazing. When I began to walk around regularly, I began to earn leadership credibility and I hadn’t even done anything except escape from the executive hall. We have a tendency to think leadership is much more complicated than it really is. Leadership is hard, but it’s not complicated.
Want to raise your leadership credibility? Be visible. Get out of your office. Try walking around. Eat lunch in the mail room or have coffee with the receptionist. That isn’t everything you need to do, but it’s a good start.
© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
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"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner