Character Credibility

American sprinter, Justin Gatlin, races 100 meters through the evening heat in Doha, Qatar in 9.76 seconds. His time equals the world record, and makes him only the 4th man to accomplish track and field`s greatest triple triumphs in the 100 meter sprint: winning a World Championship, winning an Olympic Gold Medal, and holding the world record.May 28, 2006

Baseball slugger Barry Bonds blasts a 445-foot home run in front of his home crowd in San Francisco. The mammoth hit marks the 715th home run in Bonds` illustrious career and moves him past the iconic Babe Ruth into second place on baseball`s all-time home run list.

July 23, 2006

American cyclist, Floyd Landis, defies all odds to be crowned champion in the storied Tour de France. After falling more than 8 minutes off the lead in late in the race, Landis makes up an astonishing amount of ground to pull off a narrow victory in cycling`s event of the year.

How will these three sporting feats be remembered? For the astounding athletes who achieved them? For their historic significance? For the initial excitement surrounding them? For earning their place in the record books?

Sadly, each will be remembered for their utter lack of credibility.

Crumbling Credibility

After failing a drug test for the second time, Justin Gatlin awaits a ruling which may lead to a lifetime ban from track and field. His name will be erased from the record books.

As Barry Bonds faces federal investigations into his purported steroid abuse, he must also endure the howling boos of fans angered by his all-but-certain steroid usage. Every step of his climb toward first place on baseball`s home run list is tainted with allegations of cheating.

Floyd Landis will relinquish his cycling championship and has been booted from his racing team for his intake of banned substances during the Tour de France. His feel good story has degenerated into a disappointing reminder of the widespread doping that plagues the American sports scene.

If leadership lessons, church sermons, and classroom curriculums seem to have worn out the theme of character lately, they do so for good reason. Corporate scandals aren`t the only embarrassing evidence of character-deficiency in the USA. From prisoner abuse at Abu-Gharib to steroid abuse running rampant in sports, American society has come face to face with a shocking shortage of morals.

Cultivating Credibility

Leaders, like never before, are scrutinized for airtight character. In this present climate of skepticism, a leader`s credibility can vanish with a momentary moral slip. In an article on adapted from their book entitled Credibility, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner offer 5 fundamentals for building a credible foundation as a leader.

Character Counts

Reputation is based on external perceptions, and it can change due to an accusation or unfortunate circumstance. Conversely, character is built on internal decisions, and it remains rock solid amidst shifting situations.

Ultimately, a leader`s strength (or weakness) of character will prevail. In their article, Kouzes and Posner quote an anonymous poem, recited by Thomas Likona, to illustrate this point:

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words;
Be careful of your words, for your words become your deeds;
Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits;
Be careful of your habits; for your habits become you character;
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.
Individuals Act, Organizations Create Cultures

People are the engines that drive organizations. An organization`s productivity hinges upon the quality of work given by its workers. An organization`s impact on society depends upon the decisions of its leaders.

Individual actions shape organizational outcomes. Companies don`t give to the community without individuals choosing to be generous. Neither do businesses exploit shareholders and partners without the selfish actions of individuals. Corporate credibility relies on individual character.

However, organizations do develop cultures, and these are highly contagious. A culture of honesty and transparency positively pressures employees to act ethically, whereas a culture of corruption begets deceit. As Kouzes and Posner write, €œThe behavior that is modeled becomes the behavior that is followed.

Our System Is Based on Trust

Before 9/11, we flew the friendly skies with little concern for our safety. In the aftermath of the incident, airport security tightened to levels never before seen. To regain our trust, the Federal Aviation Administration had to adjust the measures taken to ensure passengers entering flights had been screened for weapons or other dangerous materials.

Just as trust is the bedrock of the airline industry, so to business must be transacted with an underlying foundation of trust. Early in the 21st Century, in the wake of widespread corporate scandals, good faith has been replaced by strict regulations. Where an executive`s word once sealed a deal, laws and safeguards have been implemented to protect us from fraud.

Once trust has been broken, restoring credibility takes extra effort. Leaders must learn to earn trust and prize it dearly.

The Legacy You Leave Is the Life You Lead

Deeds supersede creeds. Credibility is not founded upon intentions but on actions. Leaders inspire when they clearly articulate a message in words, but they etch their message in the hearts of those they lead when they model it day by day.

Hypocrisy is the trap door of a leader`s credibility. Fakes and phonies have a short shelf life in leadership, because when their credibility plummets, they have no platform of respect from which to lead.

You Can Make a Difference

Despite leaders who exploit, leaders who misinform, and leaders who control, people still crave leadership. In particular, people long for leaders who demonstrate character, who are willing to serve those they lead, and who operate with their team`s best interests in mind. As such, leaders who build their credibility and are willing to shoulder responsibility will always attract a following.

Now, like never before, character and credibility are essential to leadership. The great part is that you can make a difference. You can change the leadership culture by diligently attending to y our character. You can lead effectively by earning and leveraging credibility.

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