Leaders Must Be Credible to Be Persuasive….and That’s the Bottom Line

Authored by: Cory A. Godwin, CPM, Chief Deputy Tax Collector, Walton County Tax Collector

The ability to influence and persuade others through communication is an essential leadership competency.  Today’s leaders must be able to articulate a compelling vision of the future and galvanize followers in the pursuit of a shared purpose.  In order to be effective, leaders must establish credibility, build goals on common ground, make their position compelling to others, and connect emotionally.  Credible leaders attract enthusiastic and committed followers, and people want to work for them. Credibility is based on a combination of the leader’s knowledge, expertise, and relationships with others. The foundation of any meaningful relationship is trust. Part of establishing credibility is creating a sense of trust between you and your followers.  Here are some key focus areas for leaders to establish credibility necessary for trust:

Be Open and Honest

Developing a reputation for giving honest and truthful information that can be verified goes a long way towards gaining employee respect and establishing credibility.

Be a Life-Long Learner

Demonstrating a commitment to your personal growth and education is also helpful in establishing credibility. Leading by example means showing that ongoing education is important to success. By continually, and openly, pursuing further education in your field you show followers that you do not have all of the answers, but are willing to do the work necessary to learn.

Master Your Industry

Credibility requires that a leader have more than a basic understanding of his field. A leader should be competent in his field with the ability to analyze a situation and develop potential solutions.

Be Accountable

A credible leader uses actions along with words and takes opportunities to show followers he is willing to perform whatever tasks is necessary to succeed. To establish credibility, a leader must be accountable for her decisions and her actions. When a leader makes a mistake, she owns up to it and takes the steps necessary to correct the error.

Delegate Real Responsibility

Delegating responsibility and showing trust in the ability of your employees is an important factor in developing credibility. Showing trust in your employees’ skill sets and their ability to perform a designated task develops confidence in your ability to manage the team. Working with subordinates while maintaining a position of authority, as opposed to talking down to your staff, also helps to develop leadership credibility. Leaders should show respect for staff members’ individual needs, abilities and opinions to help gain their loyalty.

The power of persuasion

To be persuasive, leaders must be able to communicate how the actions they are requesting will benefit others, make their positions compelling to others, and connect emotionally with others. Being forward-looking, envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from non-leaders. According to Kouzes & Posner (2009), the best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present. The only visions that take hold are shared visions that leaders create by listening very closely to the hopes, needs, and aspiration of others.  In addition to building goals on common ground, the leaders position must appeal to others on an emotional level. According to Sinek (2009), the most effective leaders chose to inspire rather than manipulate in order to motivate or persuade the actions of followers. Leaders must connect emotionally by using symbols, metaphors, and stories to express their messages rather that relying of facts and figures. Sinek (2009) emphasizes the importance of focusing leader communications on the “Why” and not the “What” and “How”, it order to inspire others. After all, the goal is not just to get people to buy that they need what you have, but to believe what you believe. The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, but who believe what you believe” (pp. 39-40). Sinek (2009) warns, “If you hire people who just need a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people that believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears” (p. 39).


Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (2009, January). To lead, create a shared vision. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/01/to-lead-create-a-shared-vision/ar/1

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York: Portfolio.