No one will ever follow a leader who isn’t credible. But how do you earn “credibility”?

That’s a complex question. Here are three things to think about:

The first thing followers demand is a core competence, usually a high level of technical skill in a given area. Few computer programmers will respect a leader who isn’t a superb programmer. Few salespeople will respect a sales manager who hasn’t achieved great sales results. We all tend to follow people who know more than we do. There’s a certain comfort, even safety, in knowing that our leader has a high level of technical skill.

But technical skill isn’t enough to be successful as a leader. Higher-ups in particular are looking for something far more rare than technical skill – they’re looking for the ability to get results through other people. That requires the ability to replicate in others the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors that made the leader successful. What I’m describing is a second core competency as a talent developer.

Here’s an interesting twist: One of the things that gives leaders added credibility with their followers is the respect they’ve earned from higher-ups. And yes, rank-and-file employees are acutely aware of how respected their bosses are by senior management.

So, if you want to increase your credibility level with employees, you can’t rely on your technical skills to carry the day. You’ve really got to develop that second core competency as a talent developer.

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