Does it matter if you’re believable?

Believability. You can only earn it when other people perceive that you are telling the truth. 

Does that really matter to executive leaders like you? 

It certainly seems to be a rare commodity among our political leaders, especially these days. On every front, the political landscape seems covered in lies. 

Here in Canada, we have a Prime Minister admitting to deception in his office, embroiled for weeks now in a Senate scandal that stemmed from what can best be called “inaccuracies” on expense claims.

And then there’s the now notorious Rob Ford, mayor of the country’s largest city, who after months of lying about alleged drug use has now fessed up. It’s made great fodder for comedians everywhere. In the past few days, however, the mood has ranged from ridicule and disdain to concern, as some now blame addiction for his continual lies and denials.

On the US front, President Obama is accused of lying about healthcare, having promised citizens they could keep both their doctors and their plans if they so desired. He recently scored 4 Pinocchios, the lowest score possible on the Washington Post’s fact checker, signifying he’s telling “Whoppers” when it comes to the truth. 

Ultimately, citizens will declare with their votes whether the believability of their political leaders matters.

But what about unelected, executive leaders like you?

Are you believable? Do others perceive that you tell the truth? And does this have any bearing on your leadership influence or impact?

You bet it does. But maybe not in the way you think. 

As an executive leader, you have authority over others because of the position you hold.  It comes with your title. You can, and should, hold others to account.  So whether they believe you or not, they are supposed to do what you ask them to do. 

But this alone won’t give you the greatest influence or impact. For that, you need others to perceive you as the kind of leader they follow because they want to, not just because they have to in order to keep their jobs. 

And for that kind of leadership influence and impact, you need to earn their trust. 

Trustworthiness is one of the 10 categories of leadership communication that we measure through our Speakcheck® diagnostic. We use a number of other metrics in assessing a leader’s trustworthiness but believability is a key one. 

Because if your “followers”  – employees, customers, investors and other key stakeholders – don’t believe you, they won’t trust you. And your influence on them will therefore be limited. 

So here’s some counsel. Tell the truth -always. That doesn’t necessarily mean the whole truth. As an executive leader, you are privy to confidential information that others are not. But tell them what you can tell them, when you can tell them. Be very sure it’s factual and accurate.

And if you do make promises, as you should, be sure to follow through. Empty promises will also erode trust.

Trust once lost is very difficult to regain. 

So sound believable by being truthful.  You’ll find yourself surrounded by people who will go to great lengths to help you fulfill your leadership goals and objectives.