I put this as a layer but I am not sure how to write about it. This is just a thought.
Anyone can have credibility for a moment. Do something well, experience a success, achieve a goal, reach a target – you gain a certain amount of credibility. The challenge is maintaining your credibility over the long term.
The challenge with building something over the long term is that you just don’t know how long that will be. Is it 6 months, a year, 5 years, a lifetime? My answer is YES. All of them. My experience is this: if you want credibility then always do things well, always use discretion, always maintain your integrity, always work on your attitude, always be someone that others can trust. Once is never really going to be enough.
Credibility has two levels: personal and positional. (Perhaps)
Even after 25 years of leadership I still hope I have earned enough credibility so when I mess up it won’t be fatal to my leadership. I think I’ve noticed something about credibility, about how my reputation is affected by the not so good things I have done.
My personal credibility can protect my positional credibility. Within reason anyway. I think if I murdered someone or committed adultery both will be affected quite seriously. However, I can look back on my life and see mistakes made that before great damage to me and my leadership could be done, friends rallied around me, supported me, encouraged me, protected me and my reputation. They helped me journey through it. Helped me to make good decisions and stay on track. Maybe the credibility I had earned personally with them over a period of time was enough for them to think, ’this is not the real Julian here’.
Of course, the contrary can also be true. When we don’t know a person except for the position they hold we can be quick to judge them, to almost encourage their downfall. Our assumption that somehow they should be perfect is unfair. They are just people like ourselves. Think politicians. Think highly-paid athletes. One mistake and quickly question their reputation. We must fight against this tendency, especially those of us who are Christian leaders.
Personal credibility and positional credibility are not separate. I have learned they are inter-twined. One impacts the other. Both must be protected. Yes, achieve great things. Yes, be successful. Alongside that though, build great friendships, encourage healthy relationships. Then, if/when you mess up, your personal credibility may just be enough to outweigh the damage to your positional credibility. Those closest to you can help you maintain the credibility you have worked so hard to build.
I’m not sure is this is right. It was just an observation from my own life. Maybe it’s a little naive. One thing is for sure, we don’t know what our credibility is actually worth until we do something that makes others question it. By then it might be too late to discover if the only credibility we have is because of the position or title we possessed rather than on a personal level. To recover we should admit the mistake, seek to recover, make restitution and begin building all over again.