In “Building Leadership Credibility” we saw ten tips on building credibility. This post is an attempt in highlighting some of those tips with an appropriate leadership credibility story.
Leadership Credibility Story 1 – Keep your promises
In 2000, a new contractor had joined our company on a six-month contract. After the first two months or so, I noticed a certain lack of interest in the person’s behavior and work ethic. In my discussions with him, I could make out that was quite intelligent, hard-working and eager to make a mark. I could not match those personal attributes with his work ethics. This person did not contribute to discussions, kept watching the clock and displayed a general apathy towards work. As I probed further, I got to know that during his interview he requested “read only” access to our BW (Business Warehouse) system so that he could further enhance his BW skills. The hiring managed agreed and promised he would get the requested access. At the time BW was a promising skill-set to have, and he wanted to further his knowledge as he worked in another technology. He realized a month after he joined, that he would not get access to BW, since that system was controlled by a manager in another department. The manager that interviewed this person and who he reported to, had no control over the BW system.
That manager promised a prospective employee something that she could not have delivered since she did not have any control or ownership over the BW system.
This is a classic case of a person (the hiring manager) losing credibility in the eyes of another (the contractor).
Leadership Credibility Story 2 – Share your knowledge and help out
I recall the time we were trying to form a cricket team at our local bank branch. We were a bunch of bank employees who were very keen on competing in the local league. We were looking to select a squad of 15 from about 25-30 other bank employees. Some of the folk had not even held a cricket bat properly and most of us did not even have the proper clothing. The venue was a dustbowl in the Oval maidan in Mumbai .
Now imagine a passionate 21 year old trying to pitch this to the manager of the Indian cricket team! Yes, I had the nerve (or the foolhardiness) to talk about this and invite the great Hanumant Singh to the Oval. The ex-Indian cricketer, national selector and manager of the Indian cricket team could politely have declined. He could have dismissed the idea and hardly offended me at all.
But the royal prince of Banswara showed up at the ground wearing his navy blue Indian cricket hat, to watch us play with a tennis ball and shoddy attire, for a full hour.
Now that I write this post, I can sense the depth of the impression the great man made on me.
By his actions that day, Singh shared his cricket experience and selectorial abilities. He did not let the tennis-ball cricket, or a dustbowl, maidan setting get in the way of sharing his knowledge. His total down-to-earth demeanor enhanced his credibility amongst the branch team.
Leadership Credibility Story 3 – Look out for others
One time, I was examining the list of invitees for a lunch to celebrate the success of a project. As I looked over the list, I noticed that they had left out one person who had worked hard in the scoping phase of the project almost 18 months ago. This person was instrumental in scoping out the project, carrying out the vendor evaluation and preparing the capital approval request at the start of the project. I mentioned this to the project sponsor and she readily extended the invitation to the person. Needless to say, the person was surprised at getting the invitation. Later on he guessed that I had recognized his contribution to the project and he came and thanked me for going out of my way to include him in the celebration. His demeanor towards me completely changed from that day on!
Leadership Credibility Story 4 – Fighting for your team-member
I recall one of my fellow managers talk very highly of one of his direct reports. This person had delivered a project very successfully overcoming some challenging obstacles. The standout factor was a creative way in which the contract was worked out with a software company. The company was put on the hook to take complete responsibility for delivery of the end product. As it turned out, two unforeseen issues caused high complexity. As a result, the contract-bound software company had to put their most expensive and skilled expert on the job and deliver the solution.
My colleague wanted to showcase this project as a stellar example on the kind of leeway project managers have (and should exercise) while managing projects. He wanted to do this at one of our monthly Town Hall meetings His boss would have none of it, since Town Halls were not meant for project training. My colleague spent at least an hour arguing with his boss as to why this project should be presented. Needless to say, his direct report – the project manager and for whom my colleague was fighting – was present during the whole discussion.
This to me was a good example of a leader building credibility in his team-member’s mind and winning loyalty as well.
Leadership Credibility Story 5 – Consistency in behavior
One day a villager came to see Hanumant Singh in his office. This person stuck out like a sore thumb. He was older, had a stubble, wore a pink turban, had soiled and slightly torn clothes and carried a stick and a cloth-covered bundle in his hand. He walked slowly and asked for directions to Singh’s office. Everyone turned around to see this person, who was clearly out of place. The bank office was located in the posh Cuffe Parade, a very rich area in South Mumbai. Some people even questioned him and would not allow him to proceed into the posh offices of State Bank of India where Singh was a Chief Manager.
As soon as Singh heard that someone from his home town had come to see him, he stepped out of his cabin and went to receive the person. I was sitting in the office and the old man squatted on the floor next to me. Calmly, Singh helped the man to a chair next to me. Turns out, the person was from Banswara, a province in the state of Rajasthan. Hanumant Singh was the royal prince of Banswara. Common man and royal prince then engaged in a dialog in Rajasthan. I could understand very little of the exchange. Someone in the village had sarcastically told the person that if he met the prince, all his problems would be solved. So this person actually made the trip to Mumbai to meet his prince.
Guess what the prince did next. At Singh’s behest, and with his ration-card in hand, I took a cab to the Azad Maidan ration store and bought rice, wheat and sugar for the villager. Grain used to be rationed in India during the time and a ration-card was required for its purchase. Singh didn’t need government ration – after all he was royalty. But for the villager, the gift was as valuable as gold. Not only did he get his ration, but he also got royal treatment from none other than the prince of Banswara. There was a look of great satisfaction in eyes.
While sharing came very naturally to Hanumant Singh, it was his behavior with a person of much lower stature that opened my eyes that day. I witnessed the whole episode firsthand and I saw Hanumant Singh display the same calmness and gentleness that puts everyone at ease. To me that was a fine example of consistent behavior by a leader which builds credibility.
Image: (c) Wikimedia Commons. Author: Szentkiralyi