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Credibility is foundation of leadership

PETERSON AFB, Colo. -- Character can be defined as simply as "who we are." Some common descriptive traits for character are honesty, integrity and dependability. In a nutshell, a person's character determines the decisions they will make on a consistent basis and how other people view those decisions in either a positive or negative light. Any of the traits used to describe a person's character are important, however, in the military the most important character trait of a leader is credibility. Credibility is the foundation of leadership and the cornerstone of a person's character. 

To earn personal credibility, we must clearly articulate our strongly held beliefs. If we expect people to believe in us, they first must know what we believe in. If they don't believe in the messenger, they won't believe the message. An example of this is a senior noncommissioned officer I've worked with. Everyone in the office knew this NCO was passionate about dress and appearance. He always looked sharp and wasn't afraid to "call out" someone who was not in compliance with regulations. Infractions from the newest Airmen, a senior officer, or even a visiting chief master sergeant would not go unnoticed or unmentioned. If you found yourself on the receiving end of a dress and appearance conversation with this NCO, you knew you were "out of regs" because of this man's credibility. You could double check him to be sure, but you don't because of his character and credibility. 

Building a strong and respectable character isn't easy, which is why we need to reinforce the behavior we want repeated. Do as I say, not as I do is not an appropriate method. Instead, utilize the "do as I do" method to build credibility and trust. Give feedback as well as solicit feedback. It's a method to tell Airmen that what they are doing is correct and help them correct something that is wrong. In the same light, taking and acting upon feedback is another way to gain credibility with others, as credible leaders are more effective and productive than supervisors with credibility issues. 

When it comes to whether we're believable as leaders, our coworkers first listen to our words and then watch our actions. If we don't "walk the walk," at best, people will doubt our seriousness, and at worse, see us as duplicitous. Leaders who practice what they preach have followers more willing to entrust their livelihoods and lives to them. In our profession of arms, it is imperative we develop credibility with our fellow Airmen, our subordinates and coworkers, and that we believe in and trust in the character of our Air Force leaders.