As I watched the Anthony Weiner scandal resurface this week, I started thinking about how honesty and trust can cultivate respect, influence your reputation and increase your credibility, while dishonesty and mistrust can wreck it – and do so in a matter of minutes.
When I look back on successful strategies and campaigns and consider current ones, in addition to honesty and trust, three key attributes come to mind that can make or break credibility – and are essential to rebuilding it, once it’s lost.
• Accountability. Once you’ve made it over the trust and honesty hurdles (I mean, really, who’s going to give you the time of day if they can’t believe what’s coming out of your mouth), you have to be accountable for every decision you make and every action you take. If or when you diverge or make a mistake, you have to get back on track as soon as possible. In Weiner’s case, you can’t apologize, vow to change, but not keep your word.
Second chances are doled out easily these days. But third and fourth? Not likely.
• Preparation. With his signature knuckle-rapping – two taps on wood with his wedding band – Kevin Spacey, aka Francis Underwood on Neflix’s “House of Cards” (yes, I am a fan), believes that success is a combination of luck and preparation. He’s right. Doing your homework, staying focused and touting relevant experience in the right way are paramount. You have to work hard and truly know your stuff. If you don’t, another, more credible leader or expert will come along and replace you. In Weiner’s case, he probably won’t win the mayoral election.
• Authenticity. As Seth Godin pointed out in a blog post a few years ago, Mother Theresa was filled with self-doubt. But she was an authentic saint, because she always acted like one. Leveraging your personal strengths and weaknesses and being genuine will not only keep you honest and consistent but will also keep your character in check.
Credibility and thought leadership go hand-in-hand. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain credibility without trust, honesty, accountability, transparency and preparation.