Often, a successful promotion is defined by scoring high on a test, doing well in an assessment center, or even simply getting the position. However, the “work” does not stop the day we achieve the rank and a successful promotion is not solely defined by obtaining new collar brass. A successful promotion is also defined by our ongoing efforts, after assuming the new role or rank.
Five important areas to focus after assuming a new leadership role are: continue to be a student of your position and its responsibility, develop your leadership abilities while building trust, build and maintain your credibility, identify and develop key relationships, and lastly, recognize this promotion is not about you. In my series of posts on this topic, I will discuss these five concepts and share tips on how to be successful in these areas.
Topic #3: Building Credibility:
Building credibility seemingly becomes more important as we climb the ranks and assume more leadership roles in our organizations. While to many it becomes a focus as they seek to promote, or after promotion, building your credibility really begins your first day on the job.
As I mentioned in my previous post, credibility is equal parts character and competence. Character can be one of the most influential traits to our success as leaders, yet, is not always a top priority. Your character is built on your integrity and intent. While both are important and critical to our credibility, I believe integrity to be one of the most important characteristics of a leader, and the single most important ingredient in building credibility and trust.
Integrity isn’t simply ‘doing the right thing when no one is looking’. On the surface, that statement simply addresses actions or behavior, not a mental state or commitment to a philosophy. Several years ago, I was conducting a firefighter/paramedic “Chiefs interview”. This particular candidate had been highly successful in the testing process and was before for me for consideration. I asked him several questions as part of the process; however, to this day, only one question stands out. I asked him, “what does integrity mean to you?”. Without much a pause he answered (paraphrased), “I believe it’s about holding yourself accountable”. He went on to elaborate and answer the question very well; however, his first statement is all I remember to this day.
Depending on the source, or the article you read, you will see many tips for building credibility - some are character traits while others are leadership techniques. However, they all have one common theme: holding yourself accountable. So what does holding yourself accountable look like? This shouldn’t imply only admitting failures (although it can). It is more about committing to personal growth and being the best version of yourself for your organization and community. Accountability starts with having a personal strategic plan. Like any strategic plan, it will start out by identifying a mission, vision and values. Goals will be set with associated key performance indicators. External input should also be included. This can be your peers or a group of mentors you have surrounded yourself with. And lastly, it should include a comprehensive SWOT analysis. While this personal strategic plan may not be a formal document, I do recommend documenting your growth and defining your personal vision, mission and values. With this, you will begin to get an accurate picture of yourself as a Leader that will enable you to hold yourself accountable.
When you break down the equal parts of credibility and you examine the four “cores” (Integrity, Intent, Capabilities and Results), Integrity will always rise to the top as it influences everything we are, and everything we do. Therefore, I believe it is the cornerstone to credibility. If you choose to seek to build your credibility, in your Organization and in your community, you must first commit to holding yourself accountable.
Next up: Topic 4, Don’t make your promotion about you.
I currently serve as the Fire Chief for the Rio Vista Fire Department in Northern California. I lead a City Fire Department, and under contract, am the Fire Chief of a neighboring Fire District. I have worked in a number of Organizations, both full-time paid Departments and combination Departments. With a wide variety of experience in the promotional process on both sides of the table, and experience being an external candidate, I am able to speak from personal experience on many of these topics. I have also been given the opportunity to mentor many though the promotional process and beyond.
I am designated as a CFO (Chief Fire Officer) from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, hold a B.S. in Public Safety Administration, an A.S. in Fire Science and am a certified Chief Officer through California State Fire Training.
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