6 Quick Ways to Lose Your Credibility as a Leader

Whether you know of Will Rogers or not, you have probably heard his quote, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” He is also credited with saying, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”

As leaders, we spend a lot of time building our careers and our organizations, but we need to have our eyes wide open when it comes to these six habits that can corrode our character and effectiveness:

  1. Do the minimum. Who wants to follow a lazy leader? It drives me crazy when I see someone who has the gifts and influence to lead, but very little work ethic. What a missed opportunity! Lazy leaders aren’t willing to do what they ask of others and they pass off accountability. I recently read a Forbes article that made me think deeper about the behaviors that can turn us into lazy leaders. The writer emphasized the fact that lazy leaders are not just sitting around eating potato chips, they are simply spending their time doing less effective tasks that distract them from the real work. They are checking email compulsively (I’m going to take the liberty to add social media to this over-checking conundrum) and being responsive instead of proactive in their problem-solving.Bottom line: Outsiders take ultimate responsibility for their vision, and as a result, they are judicious about how they spend their time and energy.
  2. Speak negatively about others. There is a disparity between constructive feedback and destructive speculation. The Bible says it like this in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Have you ever been around someone who is constantly talking about other people’s shortcomings? I have and it’s exhausting. There are a couple of things that I can’t help but assume when I am around a serial slanderer. 1) They are immature and/or unprofessional. 2) They are not trustworthy. 3) Their self-esteem is low.Bottom line: True Outsiders look for opportunities to encourage and speak well of others, but when they have a concern, they go to that person directly.
  3. Take credit. A quick way to sink your influence is to hog recognition. If you want to be successful, 99.99% of the time, you will need help. People are not stupid. They know whether you appreciate their help or not. One way they know? You tell others. If you decide to keep all of the acclaim to yourself, you will find yourself short on patronage over time.Bottom Line: Outsiders are team players – they pass along accolades like it’s their job.
  4. Stop listening. When we rank leadership qualities, we often jump to our offensive toolbox – vision, persistence, experience, etc. But in a culture where everyone is scrambling to broadcast their opinion, one of the most valuable qualities of a high-level leader is the ability to listen. This is easier said than done. Listening requires time and humility, two commodities running at a deficit in our culture. But when we stop listening, we find that the greater deficit is the loss of relationships and knowledge, because whether we realize it or not, we can learn something from just about anyone if we shut our mouth long enough.Bottom line: Outsiders value the insight and experiences of others.
  5. Be stingy. Recently, a friend lamented that he had reached out to a business leader in our community to get his advice on a few matters (aka mentorship), but his repeated efforts to set up a time to grab coffee were met with indifference. Finally, he gave up and came to the conclusion that ‘said business leader’ was, “…Too self-centered and greedy to make the time for anyone else.” As leaders, we can develop a tunnel vision that compels us to hoard our calendars and resources.Bottom line: Outsiders are generous with their resources because they never forget the charity of those who help them along the way.
  6. Flake out. People who fall on the flaky scale often have the best intentions. They say yes to chairing a committee, or coaching a team, or hosting an event, but when the time comes, they find themselves overextended and unable to keep their commitment. These are the people who are almost always running late (or don’t show up at all, often last minute). They have a hard time prioritizing and saying no, so they end up leaving unmet expectations just about everywhere they go. Eventually, people start to realize that they can’t depend on them, so they dramatically lower expectations or find someone else to fill their spot.Bottom line: Outsiders know when to say no. Because they know that saying no to one thing means they can give their best to the things they value most.

These are just a few of the behaviors that can trip us up as leaders. Fortunately, there is always time to recognize unhealthy patterns in our personal and professional life, and cut them out with a quickness. It’s kind of like the maps app on the iPhone – as Outsiders, we constantly reroute to find better and quicker ways to get where we need to go.

Come back and visit next week, as my wife Rachel will share her perspective on what it’s like to be married to an Outsider.  Never a dull moment!


Contribution by Rachel Webb


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