In a world of information overload and 30-second sound bites, credibility has taken a backseat to expediency, and banality is now masquerading as common sense. True credibility rests on a solid, philosophical foundation, a long-term strategic vision and an incremental tactical implementation plan. It also incorporates a dialogue that is capable of withstanding the “Followup Question.” Whether from a constituent, a client, a teammate, or even a child, if you ever find yourself falling back on any of these phrases, you just lost the argument:

  • “Because, I’m the boss”
  • “Look, it’s my way or the highway”
  • “We’ve always done it that way”
  • “That’s our policy”

All of these responses simply tell your audience that you really do not have a thoughtful, credible response to their question. There are four keys to developing bulletproof credibility:

First, you must study diligently and deeply.

Let’s take a moment to address this form of study. When presenting this concept at large conferences, we will often ask, “How many of you think you should read more?” and, normally, more than 3/4 of the hands go up. We say, “That’s very interesting because financial advisors already do a ton of reading: from research reports and economic analyses to the daily Wall Street Journal and many other newspaper and/or digital feeds.” So why did so many people raise their hands? It’s because they intuitively recognized we weren’t talking about informational and/or technical reading, but, rather, the only kind of reading that really builds in-depth and nuanced knowledge: the kind of reading that can only come from books. They recognized, almost instinctively, they weren’t reading enough books.

Because they are so commonplace today, we often don’t appreciate the power of books. Just think what it would be like if you had a time machine and could go back and have a conversation with any great historical figure of your choosing. Think of the impact that would have in your life. What a miracle that would be! Well, that miracle occurred in 1436 and was called the Gutenberg Press. As our society moves from the treadmill of information to the still waters of knowledge, perspective and wisdom, we need to better balance our informational reading and viewing with the breadth and depth that only books can provide. If you need greater insights on the markets, why not have a little “chat” with Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett or the late great John Templeton? If you need some perspective on geopolitical uncertainty, why not take a stroll with Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan? If you need to be reminded of the indomitable spirit that lies within each of us, you might want to chat with Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi or Winston Churchill. Tapping into the collective wisdom of the ages is as close as your local library or a couple of clicks on your iPad or phone. Remember that you lead teams, branches and complexes that see you virtually every day and, therefore, over time they will know both the depth and breadth of your knowledge, insight and wisdom.

Second, you must challenge your assumptions.

“What got you here, won’t necessarily get you there.” You must take a hard, and in some cases, novel view of the competitive landscape and then position your practice to compete with, not just the world as it is, but as it is becoming. Every great historian, when analyzing the information before them, would say, “It is surely possible” and then would allow the facts to speak for themselves. Today many people approach “the facts” only to reinforce their preconceptions, biases and long-held beliefs. Too often, we take mental/emotional shortcuts to avoid the critical thinking, in-depth analysis and profound changes that the real facts might require of us. It takes discipline and, often, courage, to confront the situation as it is rather than as we might like it to be.

Third, you must expand your comfort zones.

Constantly look for “new and improved” approaches, methodologies, insights and impacts. We addressed this concept in depth in the previous section entitled, “Doing Battle with the Comfort Zone.”

Finally, you must move from reacting to responding.

Here we will simply quote the renowned Austrian neurologist and author of the classic Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Download the complete Transformational Leadership Toolkit for actionable resources to execute on these insights.