Six Surefire Ways to Kill Your Professional Credibility

What mistakes do people make that hurt their professional credibility? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Matthew Jones writes at, where he shares an integrated approach to wellness and self-fulfillment that's focused on balancing the mind, body, and spirit, on Quora.

Leaders need credibility. If you want a group of employees to follow you on the road to success, you need them to buy in to your vision. Getting multiple people to set aside their differences with one another and unite as a team is difficult, especially if you don't command their respect. In order to be successful, a leader has to find balance in creating a culture that encourages collectivism and embraces each individual and their unique skill set.

Several characteristics separate great leaders from their less-inspiring counterparts. While some people appear to be "natural born leaders," the majority of people have to learn the right way to cultivate their managerial skills. If they don't take the time to understand the key differences between successful and unsuccessful leaders, their own lack of accountability can create a toxic workplace that leads to underachievement, decreased productivity, and stress-induced headaches.

Here are six mistakes that leaders make that hurt their professional credibility:

1. They shift blame.

Rather than acknowledging the problem and accepting responsibility, bad leaders place the blame on others. As a leader, you have to model appropriate behaviors for your employees. If you want them to come to you and say, "Yes, I messed that up. I know that I can do better, and promise I won't let you down again," then you need to be the one to set the standard. Rather than shifting the blame on to others, show your company what accountability looks like.

2. They fail at accepting feedback.

Great leaders encourage feedback and then use it to their advantage. Poor leaders manufacture an environment in which they aren't open to receiving feedback because they don't appreciate their employees' perspectives. If you want your employees to modify their behavior when you tell them to make a correction, then you need to display this same willingness to grow. Instead of tuning out their opinions, show them that you value their viewpoints, so that they can display how much they value yours.

3. They send mixed messages.

If you want credibility, then try not to be a walking talking hypocrite. Don't tell your employees that you value their opinion and then disregard everything they say, for example, because it sends a confusing message that leads to mistrust. Employees need to feel safe and supported in their work environment, but when you send mixed messages, it confuses them and makes them feel insecure about sharing their ideas with the group. Try to be clear and explicit in your directions, and do your best to practice what you preach, because that gains credibility points.

4. They use their title as leverage.

It's a zero sum game when bad leaders use their titles as leverage in an argument. Not only is it a logical fallacy, using your title is a shallow display of strength. Rather than turning an argument into a salary or title competition, focus on what really matters. Most often, people just want to be heard and have their perspectives validated. Tell your employees that you hear them and empathize with their feelings, and then show them your leadership by guiding them in the right direction and emphasize their role in the larger process. The more your employees feel special, unique, and part of something larger than themselves, the more they'll work with instead of against you.

5. They divide and isolate their employees.

Singling out people for office ridicule and humiliation is detrimental to corporate culture. It makes people feel unsafe, which forces them to withdrawal or put on a mascaraed, neither of which results in teamwork. Highlighting personal failures also gives employees permission to be insubordinate. If you roast people in public for poor performance, then your employees will feel entitled to alienate and confront their coworkers or fire back comments to the mid-level managers. Gaining credibility means bring people together, not tearing them apart.

6. They let their personal issues impact their work.

Instead of hiring a life coach or seeing a therapist to help guide them through the pressures of running a company, bad leaders refuse to address the emotional issues that we all have. When bad leaders don't process their feelings outside of the office, the office turns into a dysfunctional emotional enclave. The best leaders sift through their thoughts and feelings with professionals, who help them maintain a clear mind and open heart, which leads to a more efficient workplace.

Credibility is important when you're leading a company. As the leader, you create the workplace culture by modeling appropriate behavior and setting the tone. If you want to get the most out of your employees, then you need to demand the most out of yourself. Address your personal development outside of the office, hold yourself accountable, listen to feedback, follow your own advice, and unite your employees so that you can gain credibility and be the great leader you've always wanted to become.

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