Blog | July 13, 2015

Are You Seeking To Grow Your Influence?

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL


For executives there is an inherent tension between having total responsibility and having very limited control. The question is, how does one strike a balance between the two? According to Joel Trammell, author of The CEO Tightrope, and past Life Science Leader magazine Leadership Lessons contributor, the key is to seek to grow your influence by applying the 3Cs available to every exec — credibility, competence, and caring. Here’s how.

What Is Required To Create Credibility

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. You may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you cannot fool all of the people of the time.” When it comes to measuring your credibility as a leader, Trammell suggests beginning by asking, when communicating, do people believe you to be telling the objective truth? If so, then you have credibility, and the challenge before you is how to keep what you already have. According to Trammell, maintaining credibility requires telling the truth 100 percent of the time. It takes only a few instances of delivering noncredible statements to totally lose one’s credibility, and once lost, it is nearly impossible to lead effectively. Because credibility is attached to the person and not the job, executives can lose credibility by their actions outside of work. “While being CEO doesn’t mean that you give up all of your privacy,” Trammell writes, “it does mean that you can’t do things in your private life that call into question your ethics or honesty.” Trammell reminds that though executives are human and prone to mistakes, the key to keeping your credibility is when you make a mistake, not to hide behind that as an excuse when it comes to integrity. When an executive makes a mistake, they must quickly come forward and take responsibility by being absolutely honest about the problem. While many attribute being ranked among Fortune magazine’s best places to work as being driven by a company’s corporate culture, Trammell points to leadership. For example, Dan Amos, who joined insurance giant Aflac back in 1973 and has served as the company’s CEO since 1990, focuses on the company being very ethical and socially responsible in its business practices. So, while being ranked number 49 out of the 100 best places to work in 2014 probably makes for easier employee recruitment, being highlighted as one of the world’s most ethical companies in the same year most likely makes for better employee retention, and for Amos, a much better company to lead. When it comes to credibility, it is often the little things that can make the biggest difference (e.g., saying sorry, please, and thank you) and also cause the most damage (e.g., padding one’s resume).

Finding Your Credibility Balance

To find your credibility balance and prevent small missteps from derailing your career, Trammell suggests asking these five questions.

  1. Is there any discoverable fact about your personally that would cause your team to question your credibility?
  2. Have others ever exaggerated your accomplishments? How did you respond?
  3. Has there ever been a time, in you communication as CEO, when you “shaded” the fact in order to provide a more positive spin on performance?
  4. Is the message you communicate to your stakeholders ever different from the message you send to your closest team members?
  5. Have employees ever heard you skirt the truth with external stakeholders or customers?

Trammell notes that sometimes simple wrongdoings are done on behalf of leaders by their follower. Despite a follower having the best of intentions, these can, and do, backfire, and when they do, real leadership means being accountable and responsible. Had New Jersey Governor Chris Christie been accountable first, instead of denying and deflecting during “Bridgegate,” he would probably still have the credibility necessary to make a run for the White House in 2016. As it stands now, his political career may soon be over.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I will elaborate on Trammell’s other two Cs — competence and caring — and their important role as leadership tools.