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Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It Hardcover – August 2, 2011

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Q&A with Authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
Author Jim Kouzes
Why is credibility so important?
Credibility is the foundation of leadership: This is the inescapable conclusion we have come to after more than thirty years of research into the dynamics of the relationship between leaders and constituents. Leadership is a relationship. You can't talk about leadership without talking about the expectations of those who are led. The three qualities people most look for and admire in leaders—that they be honest, competent, and inspiring—are the qualities that comprise what communication researchers refer to as source credibility. Simply put, people won't believe the message if the don't believe in the messenger.

Once credibility is lost, is it possible to gain it back?

Yes, it is. But first, let's remind ourselves that despite everyone's best intentions, despite the pursuit of flawless leadership, things don't always go as planned, expected, or promised. Sometimes circumstances change, and you can no longer do what you said you would do. Sometimes you realize, probably belatedly, that you don't have the competence or resources to do what you said. Sometimes you and others make errors in judgment or choose the wrong strategies. Sometimes you just mess up. No human being is exempt from failure. The trouble is that leadership failures and human frailties can sometimes seriously damage your credibility. That's why it's important to understand what you can do to regain credibility if ever you should tarnish or lose it.

Once that happens, you need to follow what we call the Six A's of Leadership Accountability: Accept, Admit, Apologize, Act, Amend, and Attend. When people are asked what's the most important thing a leader should do after making a mistake, the universal response is “admit it.” First, you have to accept personal responsibility for your actions, and, in the case of leaders, the actions of your organization. Then you have to publicly acknowledge that you have made a mistake. Offering an apology is another important step in rebuilding credibility. It lets constituents know that you are concerned about the impact your actions may have had on them, as well as the problems your actions may have caused them. Quick action to deal with the immediate consequences of a mistake needs to follow an apology. A quick response lets others know that you are going to do something about the problem. Making amends for mistakes is also a necessary but often overlooked part of the rebuilding process. People don't expect you to resign for an honest error or lapse in judgment, but they do expect some form of reparation or personal participation in the hardship. The amends should fit the problem. And finally, to make sure that you are attuned to the influence your actions are having on restoring lost credibility, you should pay close attention to the reactions of your constituents.

This is the first true revision of Credibility since its initial publication in 1993. Why revise it now?
Author Barry Posner
Timing is everything. When the first edition of Credibility was published in 1993, we noted that nearly half of America's workforce was cynical. The late 1980s and early 1990s were also a period of recession—there were few jobs, we were also recovering from a market crash, and we had begun the Gulf War. Public faith in its leaders was low. In the late nineties and at the turn of the century, we saw increases in trust, confidence, and credibility among leaders of major institutions. But these shifts turned out to be very short-lived. After rising for a decade, confidence in institutions and leaders began to slide in the early 2000s, and by 2007 trust (the key ingredient of credibility) had taken a nosedive. Whatever gains had been achieved had been lost. People doubted the competence of leaders, and they also questioned their integrity. Scandals, financial misdeeds, and greed had taken their toll on people's belief in their leaders. And when the economic collapse and subsequent recession hit in 2007-2008, cynicism and distrust soared. We may have hit bottom again, but it's too soon to tell.

Leaders need to take more seriously the importance of earning and sustaining credibility. We revised this book because we want to offer a useful framework and practical suggestions on what leaders can do to increase the trust and confidence others have in them. We won't see increases in engagement or performance until we see significant increases in leader credibility.

What is different in this new edition? (Or, what can fans of the first edition of Credibility expect from this new edition?)
This new edition of Credibility is completely revised and has a longer and broader reach than the earlier book. Our research is global, and the cases in this edition reflect that. From Asia and Australia to Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America, we show how people around the world affirm that credibility is the foundation of leadership. All the cases in this book have been updated, and 90 percent of them are new to this volume. They are fresh illustrations of the changing nature of the context in which people now work, especially as new generations enter the workforce.

This second edition is also slimmed down from the original. In addition to the worthy goal of saving the planet some paper, we trimmed the length for several reasons. First, we sharpened the focus on our central theme: how leaders earn and sustain credibility. In the first edition, we took detours into issues of service quality, for example, which, while important, weren't directly on message. Second, technology now allows us to move some of our research to our website. Third, we developed an entirely new companion volume to accompany this book. Strengthening Credibility: A Leader’s Workbook provides many developmental and application exercises for building and sustaining credibility.

What has not changed is our intense interest in how values clarification and culture creation must be at the top of a leader’s agenda. Some of our earliest research clearly shows that commitment, satisfaction, productivity, and other positive outcomes are significantly higher when people shared the values of their organizations. This finding is reaffirmed in our most current studies.

From the Inside Flap

Credibility—and how you gain and lose it—is moreimportant than ever.

As the world falls deeper into economic downturns and armed conflicts, as communities become more heatedly partisan, and as many workplaces show growing signs of disengagement, issues of credibility remain front and central.

In this thoroughly revised and updated edition of their bestselling book Credibility, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner explore why leadership is above all a relationship, with credibility as the cornerstone, and why leaders must "Say what you mean and mean what you say." Building on their more than thirty years of ongoing research, Credibility expands on their seminal work The Leadership Challenge, and shows why credibility remains the foundation of great leadership.

Throughout the book, Kouzes and Posner reveal how leaders can restore trust and confidence, and take the actions needed to strengthen credibility over time. Featuring in-depth interviews with international leaders from the business, government, education, and nonprofit sectors, this all-new edition contains personal stories and rich examples of the key actions and behaviors of credible leaders who get extraordinary things accomplished.

At the heart of the book is an exploration of the six key disciplines that strengthen a leader's capacity for developing and sustaining credibility: Discover Yourself; Appreciate Constituents; Affirm Shared Values; Develop Capacity; Serve a Purpose; and Sustain Hope. Addressing the needs of today's turbulent times, Kouzes and Posner also examine the tension that exists when leaders try to respond to constituents while remaining true to their values.

This personal, inspiring, and genuine guide offers an understanding of the fundamental importance of credibility and how to gain it in order to build personal and organizational success.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 2 edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470651717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470651711
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S. Coats on August 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Authors and great teachers Kouzes and Posner have once again contributed some valuable lessons for aspiring leaders. In this book, they let us know know, with complete certainly, what followers look for in leaders, and what leaders must do to earn and maintain productive and committed followers. This book is research-based and so very practical. Readers will understand why credibility is crucial for leadership, and even more importantly, they will be provided with clear directions about the work a leader must do to achieve lasting credibility. Chock full of rich, relevant examples, Credibility is already one of those timeless resources which every leader will continue to refer to often.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bev Simpson on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book full of key insights about leadership and especially about how leaders develop, enhance and maintain high levels of credibility. Like all of Kouzes & Posner's other publications, the text is easy reading and full of real-life examples about credible and not so credible leaders. It is carefully referenced with excellent links to supportive research-based findings. As a bonus, the conclusion of each chapter provides a summary of key points.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Claire A. on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There is a credibility gap between what our leaders today say and what they actually do, which makes this book particularly relevant to the times. This book gave great insight to the topic of credibility in leadership, and gives readers a step-by-step on how to gain credibility. I loved that the authors have so much experience working with leaders and share this experience with the reader, which added more value to their main points. This book was not difficult to understand, although the ideas were powerful, leaving me with many new opinions and ideas on credibility and leadership. I would recommend this book to all those in a position of power to learn the basics of what it really means to be a good leader!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J.Ilog on February 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book, one that would aid an aspiring leader significantly.

The below reviews given accurate depiction of this must read.

5 star reviews by: S. Coats (August 12, 2011), Bev Simpson (August 11, 2011), Claire A. (August 11, 2011), Dr. Peter Davies(October 11, 2011), joel garfinkle (October 5, 2011), kierrasirvin (March 9, 2013), Amy J. McHugh (October 5, 2011), Frank A. Cervini (June 13, 2014),

4 star reviews by: Spider Monkey (March 17, 2012), C M Cotton (August 6, 2013)--a great summary is given, David J. Woodman (July 18, 2013).

Page 203-227 contain the references used for each chapter, so this book is well sourced.

With over 70 insights that I wrote down to be used in this review, I will provide a few quotes here:

On building & sustaining credibility: "The process of building and sustaining credibility requires you to take the following steps:
1. Discover your self.
2. Appreciate constituents.
3. Affirmed shared values.
4. Develop capacity.
5. Serve a purpose.
6. Sustain hope."
The authors then spend the next 138 pages building their case, becoming the foundation of the book.

On leaders in general: "Leaders make impressions. They leave footprints--and these prints become guides for those who come behind them, whether a new project engineer or veteran personnel director. To the extent that people have positive and consistent images of their leaders in their heads, they will want to be like them, and act in ways that are consistent with share values. In contrast, if their leaders are inconsistent and inconsiderate, people will not want to emulate them or put into practice the values their leaders only give lip service to.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Spider Monkey on March 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
`Credibility' is a business book from two respected authors which tries to show us the various principles of management that lend credibility to your leadership and which will engender respect and support from your staff.

In clear and engaging language the authors guide you through 6 areas to focus your attention on (discover your self, appreciate constituents, affirm shared values, develop capacity, serve a purpose, and sustain hope). It does this by explaining the principle and then giving examples of where this has gone wrong and also where it has been successful.

There isn't any jargon to bog the text down in and the principles, whilst seeming like common sense, are explored in enough depth to give you an insight into how they can be successful and how by applying them it will benefit the business relationships with those above and below you.

All in all this is an informative and well thought out book and if you apply even a fraction of what is discussed in these pages you should see a marked improvement in your working relations and have a happier, more productive team.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Peter Davies on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. We all want credibility. This book will help readers to develop their credibility both individually and as part of their workplace.

It describes well the components of credibility and the steps you need to take to get it and hold onto it. The first chapter is a superb overview and introduces the key ideas very quickly. The subsequent chapters then supply examples and details of the themes in action.

At root this is a book about relationships and how and why we are convinced by some people and organisations and find others phony. If you are involved in leadership then this book is superb, and after reading it you will lead others and yourself better than before. Even if you are already accounted a good leader, after reading this book you will be better still.

I highly recommend it to other readers- it's a book that is enjoyable, well written, accurate, useful and telling.
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