John Maxwell says,

“Every message people receive is filtered through the messenger who delivers it. If the messenger is credible, then so is the message.”

He goes on to say,

“We tend to try and get people to believe in the dream, idea, or program without establishing credibility in the leader first.”

Both statements reflect the need for and power of credibility in life and leadership.

The connection of credibility to trust and, of course, character is essential to leadership. I could spend more time discussing areas related to defining credibility and looking at examples of men and women throughout the Bible and history who point us in the right direction to understand this topic. However, I want to move in the direction of examining eight ways you can build credibility as a leader.

Develop Good Relationships with People: John Maxwell describes this as the “Law of Connectivity.” Leading is about relationships. Are you connected to the people you lead? You build credibility when others have an opportunity to know you. Your transparency and openness in those relationships help people see your character more than on-the-job observation. It’s important to connect with people individually and personally. Truth be told, church members more widely accept ministers who lack speaking ability when they’re more pastoral and connect with people. These ministers sit with families at the hospital while their loved ones have surgery. They look after families when they lose loved ones. Meet people where they are. Show them who you are inside and out. Love on people. Connect with them. The result builds credibility.

Be Honest, Authentic, and Develop Trust: These three components have a strong interconnected relationship. Honesty is a given, and I cannot emphasize enough the power of trust. Think about the importance of authenticity. People appreciate and value authenticity. The ability to be genuine in your relationships leads to credibility. No one likes someone who is fake or phony. We desire to be around people who are genuine and authentic. Demonstrating these qualities will push your credibility meter up in the eyes of those who see and know you.

Hold Yourself to a Standard of Excellence, Set the Example: One of my favorite words is excellence. Businesses often claim to provide excellence as the standard for the service they offer to their customers. When you set an example of excellence in your leadership, you become a magnum force. From a biblical perspective, Christians were urged to “excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 10). They were involved in love and the encouragement of others, but Paul encouraged them to do more. We find excellence referenced in 1 Peter 2:12, as Christians were told, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” The background of this word is powerful because excellence involves the type of conduct that contributes to the salvation of others. If you desire to build credibility, your conduct needs to contribute to others’ salvation. They will then see that you have their best interests at heart.

Provide Tools and Resources for Others to Do Their Jobs Better: How well do you equip others to improve in their work? Certainly, it’s clear that you must do this in the workplace, but how about in your home? Parents, we have a responsibility to provide the tools and resources to help our children do better. Leaders in the church have a required level of responsibility that equips everyone involved with the tools and resources to do their work better. Paul said leaders must equip “the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12). Are you providing others with the right tools and preparing them in the right ways to do their jobs? Or do you hire a preacher and expect everyone to attend Bible class or worship service and figure it out on their own? Credibility increases when you provide the tools and resources others need in order to improve.

Help Others Achieve Their Personal Goals: Imagine the difference that would occur in the home, church, and world if everyone went about helping others achieve their personal goals. It would be an amazing place, wouldn’t it? Take time to integrate your life into the lives of church members. Get to know individuals’ personal goals and assist each person toward their goals. Push yourself to lead in ways that help others in those areas of life that are most important to them. Leaders who do so are recognized as credible and worthy of people’s trust.

Develop Others into Leaders: The impact on someone’s life when a leader takes the time to customize a strategy for them to become a leader is immeasurable. Mac Lake’s book The Multiplication Effect deals with an approach to help leaders accomplish this task. My prayer for each congregation I work with is to help them establish a plan that prepares others to lead. The “pipeline” that Lake refers to dries up if leaders are not diligent to work with others and train them to lead. They may not all become leaders of hundreds or thousands, but they can lead small groups. Who knows, from those you train, you may raise up a Goliath killer like David.

Add Value to People’s Lives: What adds value and how we add value are the two main areas to consider. People are different, so what adds value to each person’s life will vary. Spend time with people, learn what adds value for them, and then find ways to incorporate those activities into your leadership. How they add value is determined by the level of support they provide in the moment of need. Lift up the hands of those who labor to hold up the vision and champion the cause. Strengthen the legs of those who labor toward goal achievement. Inspire the hearts of those who seek to honor God. When leaders accomplish all three, they gain credibility.

Be Patient: It goes without saying, but credibility is earned over time, just like respect. I wish I could say that patience is one of my virtues, but I struggle with it. I’m like the guy in the story who prayed for God to give him patience and give it to him now. I once heard a missionary talk about how he quit praying for patience because he didn’t want the trials that went along with developing patience. While both thoughts possess an element of humor, they’re also true. Learning to be patient with others instead of creating unrealistic expectations will strengthen your credibility.

You can lose or gain credibility. Maxwell adds this thought about credibility: “Without credibility, it is impossible to develop sustained leadership. People may walk into the room with you, but if you do not have credibility, they will not stay in the room with you.” I could spend much more space exploring several areas related to credibility. If you would like to pursue this further, I encourage you to read more from leaders such as Stephen Covey, John Maxwell, James Kouzes, and Barry Posner. But do not leave without knowing how essential credibility is to your leadership. When it exists, people will follow wherever you lead. Credibility provides a life-giving essential for leaders.

Bob Turner
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Bob Turner is the current Director of SALT (Sunset Academy for Leadership Training). He teaches courses and conducts workshops in Leadership Development, Emotional Intelligence, Creating Vision, Strategic Planning, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Character, and Managing Change. He also serves as an instructor in the Sunset International Bible Institute’s master’s and doctoral degree programs. He and his wife, Sheryl, have been married for 42 years with more than 30 years of ministry experience. They have three grown children and ten grandchildren.