All new leaders will go through a proving ground of credibility. Credibility will produce the flash to ignite momentum but lacks the stamina to convert into fire. Validity is a different skill than credibility; great leaders effectively use validity to perform consistently. Without it, nothing seems to get done.
New leaders do not often think of their efforts in these terms, nor do they connect the work back to it. Over the years of observing most operational managers, forward-thinking or introspection is a state of utopia. Most days are spent hopping from one meeting to the next, and free time is used to address personnel issues or get in a quick heart-stopping cheeseburger.
Let’s break it down
Credibility must be established for all leaders. People will only be inspired to work with a credible leader. Credibility can be identified through the trust given by the people that work for them. When leaders develop the right culture, then there is a belief that everyone is working towards similar goals. Team members understand that working with each person and increasing sustainability will only create opportunities for everyone involved.
Credibility can be established in several different ways. Having a title of leadership alone may be enough. Others want to know if their leader has a similar understanding or expertise for their work. People use several tactics of influence to help to establish credibility. It is essential to call out that efforts should remain genuine and authentic. There are dangers to be aware of with credibility and why it cannot be relied on for consistent performance. Loyalty can quickly blind the tangibles of credibility -when not managed, blind faith will take root removing all accountability placed on the leader. In this stage of lost accountability, we bring in our trusted skill of validity.
What it looks like?
To be clear, all leaders need a certain level of credibility. When leaders lack validity and supporting skills, they will find themselves stuck over-indexing on credibility. Similar ways to view the trust of credibility are convincing and believable. However, those words do not ring as true towards being authentic or genuine. These leaders can achieve day-to-day tasks but need more discipline and intention for consistent performance.
Have you ever worked for those leaders where everything seems to come back around? They share ideas, but very few go anywhere, and they likely use words like discipline and rigor often when talking about what is missing to achieve performance. Other challenges quickly start to seem to appear. They might look like poor follow-through or the talk track is more focused on using powerful words than sharing precise details and facts. Often these leaders can accomplish staying under the radar because they create comfort for the people reporting to them. The longer and deeper it goes, the more it will deteriorate the ability to maintain culture or create a high-performing team. These signs should not be hard to call and review for any organization.
What is validity?
Validity at its foundation is about facts and logic. However, a leader should consider a large part of validity is about being able to do what you say you can do. A leader must have a certain presence and level of engagement in their business to know and understand their business. High levels of credibility may allow for good communication, even inspirational, but these leaders will struggle to convert it to tactical or execution. A large part of validity is missing without accurate knowledge of the business, its details, and the people.
How to observe validity?
Validity should be observable through tangible skills. These leaders deeply understand the systems involved, including workarounds that may present roadblocks. When asked, these leaders can quickly point out the broken processes or dead ends that impact the overall experience. Often these leaders do not like sitting in conference rooms or small chat. They have a specific focus on their work and people. Ultimately they often are consistently top performers.
Note: Traditionally, these leaders are very good at setting standards. However, they often are challenged in consistently managing expectations around their standards.
How can it be developed?
As hard as it might be to believe, the high leaders climb up the ladder, the higher the risk they are a leader over-indexing on credibility.
First thing is first:
- How are skills inventoried, and which are critical for driving the business in each role?
- What process is used to observe and assess, and who inspects and oversees it?
Reviewing what in the business is accomplished proactively versus what is addressed reactively is an excellent activity for executives and above. Where are leaders effective in driving results in their business, and more importantly, what proficiency of skill with systems and processes? Why does the QA process stop at the front line, and what measures the effectiveness of acumen?
Basics are fundamental
- All levels need observation and feedback and should be able to trend to show the progression or lack thereof.
- Skills need to be attached to specific activities, and the raters/observers need to have the skill to be calibrated/aligned.
Scorecards and KPIs are overused and again dilute the ability to develop these validity skills and, when managed poorly, create an environment ripe for too much credibility. Adopt a measurement that can look at the work more than the result. Being overly focused on the result and not the supporting activities only teaches leaders to fear the day performance gets questioned -they won’t know why or how to fix it.
Measure lead activities that make the results.
- Productivity is foundational. The rate of work or how much of it is getting completed will never fail as a measurement. Get creative in assessing proficiency and performance.
- Trend how the work is getting completed versus the results to manage skills development. There needs to be a cadence to drive progression versus an approach that seems like leadership completing a task.
Note: Develop measurement and skill-building attached to executing and accomplishing the day-to-day work. It should not be an extra task. Often shoulder to shoulder is the best way to make this happen.
Credibility is needed but must be used to leverage validity, and this is where leaders should focus on their own development and how they tell their career journey.