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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Archive for the ‘Credibility’ Category

The Dynamic Nature of Credibility

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Ross Perot

When leaders are selected to lead, a reservoir of trust, confidence and credibility is automatically established, similar to an opening balance when one creates a bank account. The factors that contribute to this include:


Prior to their selection of a leader, boards of directors or selection committees will establish a series of expectations that will be used during the evaluation process to filter the appropriate candidates and select the one who is determined to be the best.

Therefore, leaders are selected to meet the expectations of the board and investors and to fulfill specific goals and objectives. At the CEO level, these may include such things as producing growth, entering into new markets and increasing profitability, etc.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility


Leaders will normally undergo a selection process that establishes their initial level of credibility. The evaluation process will review the following:

Personal Credibility

Assesses individual reputation and trustworthiness.

Professional Credibility

Assesses the individual’s abilities, skills and capabilities to perform the job and to meet expectations.


Assesses the individual’s competence and evaluates past performance.

Outcomes and Results

Assesses the track record and the professional accomplishments of the individual.

If individuals are promoted from within an organization, they will have an established base of credibility in these four areas that are readily verified. They also may have established it with one or more of the company’s key constituencies.

This will vary by the previous exposure individuals may have had with these groups. Otherwise, credibility is established through the selection process including interviews, performance reviews and reference checks.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility


Initial levels of confidence are rooted in the beliefs of the board or selection committee that the individual possesses the capabilities and experience to meet their expectations. The authority granted to leaders is affirmed by these three factors.

At this point, the only basis of their legitimacy is the authority conferred upon them. They may have initial levels of validity, based upon reputation and past performance, but to the core constituencies, the leader must verify that validity in their minds.

After the selection process, their levels of validity, confidence and credibility will either rise or fall. This is based upon the same four factors used by a selection committee, including:

  • Personal Credibility
  • Professional Credibility
  • Competence
  • Outcomes and Results

Unlike the selection process, the key constituencies will continually use these criteria to gauge leaders’ performance as long as their tenure continues in the company. The research demonstrates that positive performance in each of these areas will generate specific levels of trust, confidence and loyalty, which enable leaders to establish emotional connections and standing with them.

Analysis of the great leaders validates that credibility is not static. Levels rose and fell as circumstances changed. This doesn’t mean the leaders were not credible or couldn’t be trusted. It revealed that only degrees of confidence varied with key constituencies at any single point in time.

The research illustrated that the emotional bonds and standing established by leaders appeared to carry more weight over the long term. This allowed them to maintain their credibility during difficult periods. When these occurred, their constituencies were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. This validates the clear correlation between credibility and emotional support when it is most needed. As was previously noted, elevated and sustained levels of credibility generate strong bonds of loyalty.

Conversely, the research showed that key constituencies often abandon leaders with poor or diminishing levels of credibility. Major missteps or unethical actions and inept decision-making erode credibility to the point where some leaders never recover. This is exemplified by traumatic events such as restructurings, major layoffs, organizational chaos, or strikes.

In some cases a leader’s validity and legitimacy may be completely lost. Carly Fiorina (Hewlett Packard) experienced this after her failed attempts to radically change her company’s culture. In her case, she had developed problems within all four categories. This resulted in the loss of emotional standing with all her key constituencies. It destroyed her validity to lead. In the end, we all heard of the widely publicized loss of her position as CEO of Hewlett Packard.

Many corporate leaders fail to understand the holistic impact their actions and decisions have upon personal credibility and levels of trust with key constituencies. They also often fail to understand the synergy and bonds of emotional connection and standing within these groups, and the importance to keep them in balance. As previously mentioned, any imbalance will generate additional credibility problems and trust-related issues.

Ross Perot achieved high levels of credibility with the public when he staged a daring rescue of his employees from Iran, during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It was further enhanced when he ran for President in 1992. He had a number of nationally televised events, where he presented his solutions for solving the nation’s problems.

However, on the night of the election, he quickly destroyed his credibility by making light of his efforts, leaving many who voted for him feeling betrayed. While much of the public initially viewed him as a credible leader, he failed to show his concern and appreciation after the election. This caused many of his supporters to feel used, leaving them disenchanted. After this episode, he never again achieved the levels of prominence in the minds of his supporters he once had.

Related: “Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”

For more information on this topic, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Credibility is Deeply Rooted in a Leader’s Character

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Herb Kelleher, Founder & Former CEO of Southwest Airlines

During the course of my research of 160 famous American leaders, spanning 235 years, I observed that legitimacy is the foundation of leadership.

If that is true, then credibility is the pivotal point of it. Everything revolves around the leader’s credibility. It is the most important aspect of leadership, yet in most leadership books, it is often either ignored or minimized.

It may be assumed that most individuals are already aware of the importance of their credibility, but my research substantiates that this is not always the case. Research clearly illustrates that the great leaders understood the critical importance of credibility in their lives, and took the necessary actions to protect and strengthen it.

A typical leadership development program teaches individuals about the necessity to establish a vision, communicate effectively, build strong teams, empower employees, etc. Anyone exposed to these programs is familiar with these principles. Yet, without credibility, none of the above actions can be effectively undertaken.

The lack of a leader’s credibility undermines all their key actions and activities, fostering distrust and a void in confidence.

To fully understand what credibility means, one must explore the specific factors that contribute to the establishment of it within other people’s minds. Each factor needs to work toward fostering trust, confidence and believability.

Credibility is deeply rooted in the leader’s character. Jon Huntsman in his book, Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2008) stated,

“Character is most determined by integrity and courage. Your reputation is how others perceive you. Character is how you act when no one is watching. These traits, or lack thereof, are the foundation of life’s moral decisions. Once dishonesty is introduced, distrust becomes the hallmark of future dealings or associations.”

This destroys a leader’s credibility and undermines the fragile bonds of trust formed with investors, customers, employees and other critical stakeholders.

Credibility is firmly grounded in a leader’s intellectual honesty. It is impaired if one fails to display intellectual honesty on multiple levels, and to face reality and deal with problems as they arise.
According to Huntsman,

“Many leaders only want to hear the positive… Those who never want to hear bad news don’t want to know when they are off course.”

Intellectual dishonesty breeds both cynicism and disbelief with all concerned, and undermines accountability with all key constituencies. This effectively destroys the levels of trust and confidence leaders require to be effective.

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Leadership: When We Need It, Why Has It Failed?

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Ulysses Grant – General, President of the United States

America has experienced similar periods of economic stress, and from them leaders emerged. Great ones arise in the face of crisis and adversity. History is replete with examples of military, political and business leaders, who have emerged from the crucibles of their times.

  • Cincinnatus arouse from a humble exile to defend Rome from invasion in 460 BC, returning to his farm once he successfully defeated the enemy.
  • George Washington was deeply affected by Cincinnatus’ example, when he refused to be named emperor during his tenure as first President of the United States, returning home after serving his country as both a soldier and political leader.
  • Ulysses Grant was a store clerk and was considered a failure in 1861, when the Civil War started. After experiencing the ineffectual leadership of many generals, Lincoln appointed him General of the Army. He defeated Robert E. Lee in 1865 and ended the Civil War.
  • Dwight Eisenhower was a colonel in 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War. Within two years he commanded the Allied Forces in Europe, which resulted in the defeat of Germany in 1945.
  • Already firmly established as a financial power, J.P. Morgan stood in the gap during the Financial Panic of 1907, infusing capital into banks and financial institutions, calmly meeting with key industrialists, and ultimately reassuring an anxious economy.

Leaders like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates and Bezos took advantage of major economic shifts and turmoil to build and expand their financial empires.

Why then and not now? In 1981 Jack Welch (GE) gave a speech entitled “Growing Fast in a Slow-Growth Economy” in which it was suggested that shareholder value should be the primary goal and focus of corporate leaders.

This philosophy was widely embraced, which resulted in an emphasis on short-term profitability as the primary measure of performance, setting the stage for the high levels of fraud exhibited by individuals who “gamed” the system to their advantage.

Ken Lay (Enron), Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom), Al Dunlap (Sunbeam) and a host of other self-serving individuals have been fundamentally responsible for the economic mess the country is now in. Utilizing a “results justify the means” philosophy, they knew by focusing only on shareholder value, investors would not likely watch the actions they were taking to destroy the long-term valuation and sustainability of their businesses. And they were right. Each of these unethical leaders was a darling of Wall Street, before the destruction of their businesses transformed them into a villain.

In light of the economic havoc caused by this philosophy Welch modified his position in a 2009 interview with the Financial Times, “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world,” he said. “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy... “

Unfortunately this original misplaced attitude has filtered down into the leadership development programs in many companies. Typically, leadership development programs focus on the wrong aspects of leadership. They tend to concentrate on the pinnacles of leadership, and what individuals like Jack Welch (GE), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway) are doing to manage their companies and financial empires.

The lessons of a highly successful CEO are difficult to transfer to an emerging leader, especially when shareholder value is the strategy. Many fail to see the connection to their jobs and responsibilities.

While this information is important to understand, it does a disservice to the students of leadership. In essence, many current leadership development theories espoused by many leadership development programs are a study of outcomes and results, and not a detailed study of the underlying factors that produced them. These are often difficult, if not impossible, for the average manager to comprehend and put into practice, and because of it, are thereby, lost.

For more information on this topic, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Adapted from article published on the Examiner.com on October 12 2012.

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

What Does Sound Judgment Have to Do With Decision-Making?

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Managers wishing to build trust and rapport with their employees need to establish sound decision making skills that consistently produce fair and ethical judgments and evaluations.

Managers who consistently make fair and sound decisions and judgments will see their effectiveness and credibility increase. Individual employees and customers will learn that they can rely on the manager to make a fair judgment and evaluation despite the fact that it may not be easy or popular.

When subordinates know they can rely on the equity of their manager’s judgments, trust is strengthened. The personal and professional reputation of the manager thus enhanced, employees will rely on their judgment and be eager to work more closely with them.
Managers must exercise sound judgment in all of their decisions. Effective decision-making plays an important role in the development of good judgment skills. Initially, managers may need to deliberately go though a checklist of key points until they become second nature.

Related: The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Developing good judgment is based upon the manager’s ability to look at all sides of a problem or issue and to weigh all of the options before a final determination is made. Typically good judgments are:


Facts form the basis of all sound judgments. While perhaps self-evident, it is all too easy to base judgments upon opinions, assumptions and personal biases.

Before a judgment can be made, managers must take the time to firmly establish the truth of the matter and filter out any opinions, assumptions and biases. When at all possible, facts should be fully documented.


Sound judgment is based upon an objective evaluation of the facts. Managers must be careful to ensure their emotions, assumptions, expectations, opinions and personal biases do not affect their objectivity. Where possible, managers should step outside of the immediate situation to view the facts from the other person’s perspective and gain objective insights into potential solutions.

Related: The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

Fair and Balanced

Sound judgment requires that all sides and viewpoints be carefully weighed and considered by managers. One pitfall in sound decision making lies in only considering one side of the issue and thereby limiting objectivity with opinions, assumptions or personal biases. When this occurs, the decision is intentionally slanted toward one side of the issue without fully considering other viewpoints and insights.

When managers are focusing on making ethical judgments, they must consider all sides of the issue and make sure the input they are considering is balanced. When balanced facts and viewpoints are objectively evaluated, the manager is able to arrive at a fair judgment.

Related: Eight Ways Others Evaluate Trust in Leaders

Made When Managers Are Emotionally Stable

Managers must refrain from making determinations and judgments in an emotionally unsettled state of mind. Decisions made when a manager is angry or hostile will be rash and subjective. Before effective and sound judgments can be made, managers must assure that their emotions are in check.

Addressing the Needs of All Parties

Sound judgments and decisions encompass the needs of all individuals involved with and affected by them. The final judgment should be in the best interests of all parties. Even when tough decisions are to be made, the best interests of all involved must be considered. For instance, if a manager must let an employee go due to poor performance, that decision – when based on facts – may be in his or her best interest. The individual may need a wake-up call or just may not have the necessary skills to be successful in their job, in which case it is best they pursue another profession.

Related: Have You Earned Permission to Lead?

Carefully Considering All Options

Sound judgments demand that managers consider all possible options. When a problem or issue is first considered, only one viable option may be apparent; however, effective managers will explore and consider all possible options before a decision is to be made.

Once managers have collected all the facts, viewpoints, insights and options, they need to take the time to thoroughly consider all aspects of the problem or issue before a final judgment is made.

Fully Assessing Risks

Effective managers fully assess all the risks associated with their decisions and judgments. They are not risk-averse, but instead weigh all facts and make their decisions based upon the judgment yielding the lowest risk and biggest payoff.

Excerpt: Ethics and Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

August 16, 2012 at 10:23 am

When Building Trust, By All Means Avoid These Six Behaviors

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One of the pillars of leadership is developing and fostering a deep sense of mutual workplace trust. One of the most vexing problems faced in organizations is a simple lack of trust between employees and their managers. For managers to experience successful growth and positive results in their respective department or unit, trust must be established on all levels. Without a deep sense of trust, their vision, goals and plans—as well as unified workplace cohesion—will be unobtainable.

Establishing trust is difficult, time-intensive work. It is earned when synergistic working relationships are established with individual employees. These relationships are characterized by active communication and listening, open and candid interactions, and a total acceptance of all persons as unique individuals. Trust also includes the manager’s personal involvement in ensuring employee as well as departmental success.

The fact that managers are granted authority over employees does not guarantee trust between both parties. Trust is based upon truth, which implies open, honest and direct communication free of personal or hidden agendas. For managers to become totally effective leaders trust must be earned and established. In the absence of trust, leadership principles will be of little consequence in the workplace.

Managers have a unique role within organizational workplaces. While they are responsible for individual employees and are required to guide and direct their activities, many are working on different assignments, projects and tasks in varying phases of completion. Many times it becomes impossible for managers to oversee everyone’s ongoing daily activities. This type of environment demands that high levels of trust are established and sustained.

Related: Six Ways to Destroy Trust and Credibility

Lack of trust in the workplace stems from areas managers can fall short in, including:

Establishing a Work Environment Free of Fear

Most managers are generally under extreme pressure to produce ongoing results. Many are focused on agendas that are able to secure or enhance their chances of organizational advancement. In the process, they often create zero-tolerance policies for mistakes and failures. This produces work atmospheres where employees become afraid to discuss problems or results in honest and open dialogue. Rather than trust their managers to support them, they hide pieces of information or mistakes that can hurt or jeopardize them in any way.

Communicating with Employees

Many managers have direct contact with their employees, but often fail to actively listen and engage in conversations that encourage interaction, feedback or input. Some are only interested in picking out certain information that they want to hear without thoroughly listening to anything else being said. Even though they fully believe they are communicating effectively, selective listening and targeted talk work to demoralize their employees and reduce their levels of trust and loyalty.

Interacting in Person

Many managers choose to communicate with their employees via email, written memos or posted messages. Very few efforts are made to interact directly with them on a regular and active basis. This becomes a major pitfall, as only when they make it a point to seek out employees to have open and free discussions and conversations can they become attuned to workplace problems, concerns, and attitudes and know which motivational methods need to be applied to whom.

All employees must be treated fairly, compassionately and honestly and be appreciated for their own particular characteristics and personalities. All have unique needs that must be addressed and met if they are to feel an important part of the organizational team. Since many tend to function with daily frustrations and pressures associated with their assignments and responsibilities, managers as leaders must become actively involved with them daily in order to encourage and sustain the motivation needed to assure they do not succumb to burnout and other psychological problems.

Related: Five Strategies to Build Trust

Specific Steps to Building Trust

If leaders wish to establish and build workplace trust, there are specific behaviors that must be avoided.


Discussions concerning documented performance results and how to improve them are always necessary and appropriate as one of the manager’s primary responsibilities and functions. However, they must make it a point to avoid making unwarranted negative comments regarding an employee’s performance, attitudes and decisions, as they are directly perceived as personal criticisms, not constructive performance or work-related input.

Psychological Analysis

Managers as leaders must avoid assuming the role of amateur psychiatrist and analyzing employees’ motivations and behaviors. This includes resisting the urge to prejudge their circumstances, situations and actions.


Managers can easily provide solutions or advice without making the effort to seek employee input. As problems are often more complex than they appear, managers can short-circuit the learning process and alienate employees by not allowing them to identify why things happened, how ineffective solutions were reached, or the particular factors that contributed to inferior results. It is important that managers seek employee input in regard to specific problems in order to understand, analyze and learn from the facts and pertinent information they possess. Only then do they provide their advice, suggestions or solutions.


Some managers tend to coerce, manipulate and force employees into completing assignments on time or accepting increased responsibility. As leaders, they need to avoid these types of actions, and instead motivate and encourage their employees to achieve desired results and/or increase their personal effectiveness and efficiency. They must know their employees well enough to be able to match the appropriate motivational strategy with each individual.


Managers as leaders must avoid controlling actions and behavior through intimidation techniques and practices. Threatening employees with negative consequences does not motivate them. Employees need to be consistently and positively encouraged to produce results. Intimidation only serves to demoralize them.

Intense Questioning

Managers as leaders must avoid second-guessing and questioning employees on every decision, idea, recommendation or suggestion they make. Employees must be trusted to make decisions on their own without intense scrutiny and oversight. A barrage of suggestions or intense questioning as to their employees’ rationale or methods on every assignment only creates more obstacles to them doing their jobs properly, and sends a clear message that their manager thinks them untrustworthy and even incompetent.

Related: Eight Ways Others Evaluate Trust in Leaders

Excerpt: Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about trust building techniques, refer to Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more. If you are looking for innovative solutions to your training problems, view our training catalog of over 125 training titles.


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

May 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

Q & A: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great

An Interview With the Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great

The editors of Majorium Business Press recently had the opportunity to interview Timothy Bednarz about his new book: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2012) to discuss his thoughts on the crisis of leadership being witnessed in America today.

Q: The research presented in Great! focuses upon 160 influential leaders, spanning 235 years. I would like to start our discussion by asking, do you believe leadership has changed over time?

Bednarz: The concept of what constitutes great leadership hasn’t changed over time. When I first started my research, I thought that genuinely great leadership was a thing of the past, but I was surprised to discover there are individuals today who can classified as great leaders.

There is no doubt that individuals are shaped by the times they lived in. However the great leaders rose to the pinnacles of success, while many of their contemporaries failed. What made the difference was the fact they developed the characteristics and leadership dimensions that allowed them to succeed.

Q: So you’re saying leadership hasn’t changed?

Bednarz: No, that’s not quite true. What has undoubtedly changed is the focus on short-term profitability and shareholder value, which often sacrifices a company’s long-term viability. This trend emerged in the mid 1980s after the success of Jack Welch at GE. Many CEOs jumped on the bandwagon and this trend changed the face of corporate leadership ever since. Consequently, this has severely eroded trust and credibility after years of scandals and downsizing that has affected literally millions of people.

Q: What impact has these two factors had on today’s leaders?

Bednarz: The Edelman Trust Barometer, which has evaluated global trust levels for the past 12 years, reported that the current levels of credibility of today’s CEOs has dropped to an all time low of 38%. This reflects a decrease of over 12% in the past twelve months.

Q: What are the implications of this drop in CEO’s credibility?

Bednarz: What is interesting about Edelman’s survey is that it emphasizes that without trust and credibility, a leaders lose their legitimacy to lead. Just because individuals are either appointed or elected to high positions of authority, doesn’t mean they have earned it. They may have the power and authority that comes with their position, but the legitimacy to lead must be granted by others, such as employees, voters, suppliers, communities, investors, and a host of potential constituencies, which leaders serve.

Q: How does this influence the concept of leadership?

Bednarz: Referring back to the idea of the earned right to lead, and from the decrease in credibility, many so-called leaders today have lost their focus on what is true leadership. To go back to your original question; has leadership changed? I firmly believe, great leadership is defined by the ability of an individual to earn the trust, respect and credibility of those that the leader serves. He or she has earned the legitimacy to lead. Every great leader I researched, over 235 years possessed trust, credibility and legitimacy, and 58% of the leaders I survey can be included in this category. All too many today solely focus on the financial performance of their companies and then wonder why they have lost their credibility.

Q: Is focusing on profits and financial performance wrong? After all this seems to be a theme in the current presidential campaign.

Bednarz: There is nothing wrong with being highly concerned about profits, and focusing on financial performance, but it needs to be balanced with the needs of all of one’s key constituencies. Great leaders today have proven this to be possible, without sacrificing financial performance. Jack Welch, whose example many corporate leaders follow, stated after he left GE that it is foolish to only focus on financial performance. It I only one factor to consider.

Q: Can you cite some examples of leaders today who have earned their legitimacy?

Bednarz: Certainly. Fred Smith of FedEx, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Jeff Bezos of Amazon all come to mind, and there are certainly others.

Q: Based upon your responses and research, how would you define leadership?

Bednarz: That is an interesting question and one that I was seeking to answer, when I first started my research. There is a host of leadership books on the market, with many more written each year, yet, many are very similar, parroting the same information without providing the reader with any new insights or perspectives on the topic of leadership. I believe that to understand the topic of leadership, you need to first understand the leaders who have historically defined it and provided us with effective role models.

After years of study, I have concluded and condensed it into a brief statement; leadership is ultimately an act of faith in other people.

Q: That’s an interesting concept. Isn’t it the role of a leader to lead?

Bednarz: The operative word in your question is “lead.” The role of a leader is to inspire, motivate, influence and guide others. Think about it. In order to inspire, motivate, influence and guide other individuals, one must establish mutual bonds of loyalty, trust, respect and credibility.

Q: Can loyalty, trust, respect and credibility be measured?

Bednarz: You must understand that everything a leader does or says is judged by others and contributes to their credibility and legitimacy or ultimately undermines it. We have an environment that relies on relative rather than absolute truths. Consequently, we often observe so-called leaders making incredulous statements, devoid of any sense of intellectual honesty, and credibility, treating their audience like a bunch of fools, incapable of seeing the truth.

People view many in corporate and governmental positions of power as self-serving, without regard for others and the consequences of their actions. It is little wonder why we have a crisis of leadership. It’s everyone for themselves without regard for those they are appointed to serve. Subsequently, we see a crisis in confidence in these individuals, as noted by Eldeman’s survey.

Q: How would the great leaders that you surveyed respond to this crisis of confidence?

Bednarz: The great leaders I researched developed strong emotional bonds of loyalty, trust, respect and credibility with their employees, investors, suppliers, communities and a host of other constituencies. They were able to balance the needs of each of these groups, without sacrificing the needs of others. They had faith in the people they served, and this is reflected in the wiliness of these constituencies to eagerly believe in them and to loyally follow where they led them.

Q: Beyond the obvious benefits of loyalty, how did the great leaders you researched profit from it?

Bednarz: The emotional bonds forged by the great leaders paid dividends over time. For instance, when George Westinghouse faced financial difficulties during the Financial Panic of 1907, his employees sacrificed for him. They made personal contributions for him to save Westinghouse Electric. In another instance, Fred Smith saw his employees volunteer their time to help handle an onslaught of packages received by FedEx during the UPS strike in 1997. Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines has driven these attitudes deep into the company’s culture.

Q: In the introduction to your book you stated, “We stand at a critical moment in history for great leadership. The door of opportunity is wide open for us to those who desire to rise above the fray. History shows that many individuals have assumed the mantle of leadership, often not without experiencing painful failures and stifling adversities. Their actions and examples provide clear pathways to follow. This book is designed to show you the way.” Why do you think today’s leaders should look to examples of great leadership in the past?

Bednarz: America, if not the world is crying out today for ethical and strong leadership, especially since the world appears to be spinning into chaos. History has repeatedly demonstrated that great leaders emerge from difficult times. Many of the leaders focused upon in my book Great! have emerged from similar circumstances, If leaders today follow their examples and diligently study how they did it, there are many lessons that can be transferred into action that are able to transform individuals into great leaders.

Q: If you could condense the message of your book into one or two short sentences for this audience, what would you they be?

Bednarz: Two words: Leadership matters. This is true, whether as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or as the president of the local PTA. Great leaders can emerge at any level of an organization, at any time, and in every field. Each has the ability to make a difference in the lives of the people they lead and serve.

Q: Thank you for your time today.

Bednarz: My pleasure.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Eight Ways Others Evaluate Trust in Leaders

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As seen in numerous large-scale corporate scandals around the turn of the century, trust or a lack thereof has a dramatic impact on an organization. While an organization can be defined as trusting and empowering, it is the individuals within it who form the basis for these qualities.

The responsibility for fostering and nurturing trust does not lie with the bottom tiers of the organization, but the managers that lead it. Where there is no trust, there is no legitimacy to management.

The starting point is the personal commitment made by individual managers.

Trust and empowerment stem from the individual actions of the manager. However, once initiated, trust and empowerment create a synergy within the organization that has the ability to move it forward to unimaginable heights.

As soon as employees know they can trust the words and actions of their managers, they are motivated. All too often the words sound good, but the accompanying actions do not follow, fostering a sense of mistrust and fear within employees.

Once managers have established trust with their employees, a strong bond is formed that is difficult to break. Unless trust is broken and people feel betrayed, employees will be intensely loyal and cooperate to achieve mutual goals and objectives. This is the strongest principle of management and its essence.

Whether or not a manager is trusted is determined by his or her actions. Anyone can make statements and pronouncements; it is actions by which an individual is judged. Managers must hold to higher standards of personal behavior if they are to foster and nurture trust with their employees, who closely observe every word and action.

Managers are judged by the following criteria:

Promises and Commitments

Corporate managers are placed under an enormous amount of stress and will miss commitments, especially minor ones made in the heat of daily activities. However, they pay close attention to what they say, and do what they promise. If unable to keep their commitment, they immediately inform the other party and make alternative arrangements.

Employees take note of a manager who makes a personal commitment but fails to keep it due to political or internal pressures. If when confronted with this failure they make excuses rather than take responsibility, they will be perceived as hypocritical. Employees with little other alternative may accept the excuse, but will inwardly feel betrayed and no longer trust the manager. The foundation for management has been greatly undermined.


As part of the human condition, everybody makes mistakes and fails. When managers make mistakes, they often impact and affect their organization. Trust is established when managers openly acknowledge their mistakes to their employees and apologize for them.

Managers also allow their employees to experiment, make mistakes and fail without repercussions. They foster an atmosphere where employees can learn from their mistakes and move on. Managers understand that individuals can only grow when they are allowed to learn. The most effective learning experiences stem not from successes but failures and mistakes.


Managers give and demand loyalty from their employees. While they understand that loyalty is earned, they do not tolerate employees who are disloyal to their organization and each other.

The most open demonstration of a manager’s own lack of loyalty can be seen in his or her constant and open criticism of superiors and employees in their absence. While loyalty is not blind, managers must demonstrate, at all times, a deep sense of allegiance to the organization, superiors, associates and employees.

If a manager takes issue with the actions of others, they should openly but privately discuss it with the individual and not criticize them behind his or her back.


Managers as leaders show faith in their employees when they share information with them. In many organizations, the control of information is the basis of personal power. Managers understand that employees must be informed if they are to do their job well and be empowered to make decisions affecting their work. Those who withhold information clearly demonstrate their mistrust of employees.


Trust is established with employees when they are included and empowered to make decisions that affect them. Trust is undermined when employees are enabled to make decisions but the decisions are never acted upon and implemented.

Effective managers actively work with their employees and trust their decisions. They work with their employees in implementing their decisions and striving toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.


Trust is fostered and nurtured when managers recognize the individual contributions of their employees and publicly recognize them for their efforts.

When new ideas and strategies work, managers who lead never accept the credit for the idea. They always acknowledge the efforts and contributions of their employees. To do otherwise betrays the trust of those employees.


Managers build trust within their organization by maintaining open communications with all employees, superiors and associates. They understand that trust is only established when they communicate regardless of the situation and circumstances, and whether or not the information is positive or negative.

Goals and objectives are effectively met when all involved have a complete picture of what is happening around them, including the barriers and obstacles to be overcome.

Respect Confidentiality

Managers understand trust is developed when they respect and honor confidential and sensitive information provided to them by superiors, associates and employees.

They also know they must trust their employees with the confidential and sensitive information they need to do their jobs and make quality decisions. Without this confidence, managers will not be able to create a trusting environment since they are evincing a basic suspicion of their employees.

Excerpt: Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about techniques that build trust, refer to Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Ways to Lead by Example

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A developmental milestone is reached when the leader is able to build trust and motivation with their employees to the degree that they are willing to openly follow their direction regardless of circumstances. This is not achieved until a leader is able to demonstrate—through personal example—that they have earned their employee’s respect and admiration.

The practice of interactive leadership provides leaders with a distinct set of advantages that cannot be realized without their active presence. This enables them to establish trust, credibility and respect. These are all elements that buttress a leader’s ability to personally lead their organization and motivate his or her employees to follow.

It is one thing to lead an organization and quite another to motivate individuals to follow. The practice of interactive leadership demonstrates the character, ability and integrity of a leader and motivates individual employees to follow.

The practice of interactive leadership spotlights the individual leader and gives them the platform to shine by motivating their employees and effectively moving the organization forward. Interactive leadership is also the practice of leadership by example, and places all a leader says or does under the close scrutiny of their employees. Effective leaders use this to their advantage by practicing the following techniques:

Sell the Vision

In the storms of change and transformation, the leader’s compass is his or her personal vision of the organization, its goals and potential accomplishments. Interactive leadership provides leaders with ample opportunities to “proselytize,” or sell their vision to their employees every time the opportunity arises. This often means leaders are constantly talking about their vision and the positive changes that will take place when it is achieved.

The importance of a leader selling his or her vision cannot be overemphasized. As a leader, the goal is to motivate and lead employees. An essential part of motivation is selling employees on the vision and getting them to individually accept and “buy into” that vision as their own. Since organizational transformation in the face of change is normally a lengthy process, leaders must take every opportunity to remind their employees of the direction in which they are headed, and motivate them to continually work toward the accomplishment of their shared vision.

Walk the Talk

Interactive leadership places leaders under the microscope of employees who are continually assessing integrity and credibility. The practice of interactive management allows leaders to demonstrate their true character and build trust and loyalty with their employees. This is accomplished by a consistency in words and actions—the measure employees use to gauge a leader.

Consequently it is crucial for leaders to make certain they follow through on what they promise. If this is not possible, they have a good reason and take the time to explain why their promise cannot be kept.

Trust, credibility and loyalty are established when employees, associates and superiors know they can take what a leader says “to the bank,” and that what he or she promises will be done. This trust is strengthened and a strong bond created when a leader clearly demonstrates by actions that he or she places their employee’s interests above their own personal agenda.

Empower and Delegate

The practice of interactive leadership strengthens trust between leaders and employees when leaders actively empower employees and delegate tasks and assignments as needed. Empowering employees, groups and teams “on the fly” and delegating assignments when feasible allows leaders to swiftly respond to the rapid pace of change—as well as resolve problems and frustrations as or even before they occur.

Create Urgency

The rapid pace of change creates its own sense of urgency, but as transformation often takes time, leaders must motivate employees by further instilling this sense in them. This is best accomplished when leaders introduce new ideas and concepts, test them quickly, learn from the failures and move on to the next idea. It is through this process of continual adaptation and refinement of ideas and concepts that a sense of urgency is developed that keeps the organization moving forward toward transformation. In the absence of this sense of urgency it is easy for employees to fall into complacency.

Openly Communicating

Interactive leadership is built upon open communication and the ability of leaders to actively listen and respond to feedback and ideas offered by subordinates. This allows leaders to use all of their physical senses to observe and learn firsthand what is happening within their organization and to minimize the distortion of information.

Removing Obstacles

When leaders are ever-present and openly and actively interacting with their employees, they are able to identify and remove frustrations and barriers impeding forward movement.

Leaders openly empower their employees to overcome barriers and delegate the creation and implementation of the solution to them. Often these barriers come in the form of minor problems and issues that can be handled by frontline employees without the direct intervention of the leader. This enables the organization to be more responsive and productive.

Celebrate the Little Successes

The open presence of the leader among his or her employees allows them to plan for short-term wins and successes. These are important since the lengthy term of transformation can cause employees to lose sight of their goals and motivation. The celebration of short-term and minor successes maintains employee focus and keeps them motivated to continue to work toward the long-term success of the organization.

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about improving workplace interaction with your employees, refer to Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved


Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

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A manager’s entire position must be predicated on trust and credibility. When either are removed from the equation, they are unable to perform. Both are required when dealing with their individual unit or department members.

Some managers feel trust and respect come with the position, when in fact they must be earned through consistently ethical and professional behavior. Inconsistent behavior and an inability to fulfill promises and commitments will develop an atmosphere of mistrust with employees. Words and actions do have meaning and should be used and taken with great care.

Like everything else in life, there are consequences attached to most everything managers say and do. When trust and credibility are removed from the equation, managers will be unable to perform effectively, and they can also see their work undermined by a demotivated and angry team.

Trust and rapport with employees is something that takes time to develop. This is especially true if there have been problems in the past. In these instances, the manager must operate while experiencing open and unconcealed mistrust of his or her words and actions. However, trust and rapport can be established, and in certain cases reestablished, by using the guidelines below.

A manager’s behavior must be consistent. If they don’t want their motivations questioned, they must treat all of their people equally. Developing consistency can be achieved through:

Setting and Uniformly Applying Equitable Standards

Managers must establish consistent performance standards that apply to each individual member of their team. The standards must be applied equally to all without favoritism, and all must be evaluated without bias.

Communicating and Providing Feedback

Managers should be openly and frequently communicating with their employees, sharing insights and expertise and helping them achieve their goals. They must provide frequent feedback regarding their individual performance. Feedback should be based upon facts and free of subjective judgments regarding personal behaviors or attitudes.

Recognizing Performance

Managers should use the standards they have established as a benchmark and openly recognize the performance of the members of their unit or department. A simple word of acknowledgement and appreciation can go an extremely long way towards maintaining enthusiasm and motivation.

Keeping Commitments

When dealing with subordinates, it is easy to let commitments slide. While many managers feel there are no consequences to such actions, if they cannot be counted on to keep their commitments, they cannot be trusted. Their employees’ motivation will suffer, which will then foster a negative and unacceptable atmosphere. Managers creating these problems for themselves can use the following techniques to help overcome them:

  1. Managers should think very carefully about each commitment they intend to make. They should make sure adequate time and resources are available to meet the commitment.
  2. Once a commitment is made, managers should make sure it is completed both as and when promised.
  3. If a commitment cannot be completed when promised, the manager should not wait until the last minute but let their employee know as quickly as possible and revise the schedule accordingly.

Developing an Open Management Style

Developing an open and trusting management style might require a shift in thinking and attitude on the part of many managers. This includes:

Remaining Impartial

Before a manager deals with any employee or situation, they must avoid making rash judgments, eliminate all emotion and gather all pertinent facts.

Trusting Others

Managers must learn to take employees at their word until the facts prove otherwise. A manager who cannot trust either his people or customers will in turn fail to earn their trust.

Listening and Being Open

Managers must be able to listen—not only to gather facts and information, but to hear issues and concerns that may arise with their employees and customers. Listening includes empathizing and showing care and concern about their problems. Managers must be open to new ideas, concepts, feedback and criticism. Trust is earned when employees and customers understand that the manager is available and responsive to them.

Excerpt: Ethics and Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about establishing trust and credibility, refer to Ethics and Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved


Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press

Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It

Email | Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

New Book Reveals The Most Accurate Gauge of Great Leadership is Legitimacy

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At a time when America is crying out for leadership in all sectors of society, a new book, which researched 160 great and influential American leaders, spanning 235 years revealed that the most accurate gauge of great leadership is legitimacy.

It illustrates that the great leaders acquired legitimacy by establishing trust, credibility, respect and emotional bonds and standing with all of their key constituencies, while delivering stellar financial performance.

The research reveals that when leaders balance the needs of all of their key constituencies, they outperform others, who sole focus on shareholder values. The focus on shareholder values concentrates upon the needs of one key constituency, often at the expense of the others. This destroys a leader’s credibility and often the long-term sustainability of the company.

The researcher and author, Timothy Bednarz, Ph.D. designated this pattern in his book Great! What Makes Leaders Great; What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press) as the Legitimacy Principles.

The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship produced between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership, and it provides insight into a new definition of it.
The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

It is often assumed that leaders automatically possess legitimacy. Great! substantiates that this is a fallacy. It shows that legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that grant leaders permission to lead.

The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors.

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically attained once one is appointed. It is earned. It becomes a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other. However, validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and a balance of emotional bonds with each key constituency. The findings of the research presented in this book, demonstrates that these are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these three critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is significantly undermined, whether for a corporate executive or a political leader. The Legitimacy Principles are applicable to all forms of leadership.

An executive summary and the key findings published in Great! What Makes Leaders Great; What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It can be viewed at http://www.whatmakesleadersgreat.com. The book also can be purchased at this site, or by calling 800-654-4935.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved


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