On Leadership Credibility and Personality

Here are two excerpts from Albert Mohler’s book “Conviction to Lead”.

The first deals with credibility. Potential is one thing, but credibility is something different. There are a lot of guys with potential who I would not follow, because they haven’t done anything, they have no credibility yet. There are a lot of guys who have credibility in their specific area of work who I would not follow, because they have no credibility in the area where I work.

“When you enter the room, trust and confidence had better enter with you. If not, leadership is not happening. How could it? Leadership is about a sense of direction and purpose, and a competence that puts the room at ease. The leader is not a superman, but he had better know who he is, what he is doing, what the organization faces as a challenge, and how to move forward.

If someone else possesses those fundamental competencies, that person is the leader, not you. If no one in the room possesses those competencies, the organization faces imminent disaster. Organizations need these critical competencies, and cannot survive without them, and that is why organizations need leaders.

You know you are credible when the organization* senses its need and then looks for a leader, and this leads them to you.”

~Chapter 10, The Leader and Credibility, page 84

*my note: ‘organization’ refers to potential followers, not just a board of directors

The second excerpt talks about personality. What happens to an organization that is so centrally focused on the personality of the leaders, and then these leaders are taken out of the picture (either through retirement, death, or a moral failure, etc)?

“The personality factor can never be removed from the leadership equation…

…But faithful leaders understand that while they will influence the organization with their personality, they must never allow personality to be the defining mark of leadership.

There are two dangers here. The first is the well-known ‘cult of personality’, in which the persona of the leader becomes the hallmark of the organization. Personality cults take over the culture of the organization, with the leader sometimes becoming more prominent than the organization itself. The other danger is that the leader will rely on personality as a substitute for conviction or competence. Personality is important, but it will fall flat when conviction wanes or competence is lacking.”

~Chapter 13, The Leader and Power, page 108

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