The 4 Cores of Credibility

Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, and your track record.

The good news is that we can increase our credibility, and we can increase it fast, particularly if we understand the four key elements or four "cores" that are fundamental. Two of these cores deals with character; two with competence. 

Core 1: Integrity

To use the metaphor of the tree, integrity is the root. Even though it's underground and not even visible most of the time, it is absolutely vital to the nourishment, strength, stability, and growth of the entire tree. 

We've all seen people with enormous capability, strong results, even sometimes good intent who unfortunately go about what they're doing in a dishonest or unprincipled way. It's the "the end justifies the means" mentality. 

On the other hand, to have integrity only - and not the other three Cores - is to be a "nice guy," maybe even a thoroughly honest person, who is basically useless. 

To most people, integrity means honesty - telling the truth and leaving the right impression. But there are at least three additional qualities: congruence, humility, and courage. 

So how do we go about increasing our integrity?

  1. Make and keep commitments to yourself.
  2. Stand for something.
  3. Be open. 

Core 2: Intent

In the dictionary, intent is defined as "plan" or "purpose." No discussion of intent would be complete without talking about three things: motive, agenda, and behavior. 


  • Motive is your reason for doing something, and it inspires the greatest trust when it shows genuine concern for people, purposes, and society as a whole. 


  • Agenda grows out of motive. It's what you intend to do or promote because of your motive. The intent that inspires the greatest trust is seeking mutual benefit, realizing that life is interdependent and seeking solutions that build trust and benefit for all. 


  • Typically, behavior is the manifestation of motive and agenda. The behavior that best creates credibility and inspires trust is acting in the best interest of others. This is where the rubber meets the road. It's easy to say "I care," and "I want you to win," but it is our actual behavior that demonstrates whether or not we mean it. 

In many organizations, the message communicated by behavior is not "we care;" it's "you're expendable." It's important to keep in mind that sometimes, unfortunately, poor behavior turns out to be bad execution of good intent. 

  1. Examine and redefine your motives. It's a human tendency to assume we have good - or at least justifiable - intent. 
  2. Declare your intent. It signals your behavior and lets people know what to look for so they acknowledge it when they see it. 
  3. Choose abundance. Abundance means there is enough for everybody. The opposite - scarcity - says that there is only so much to go around, and if you get it, I won't. 

Role models, insightful thought leaders, and practitioners serve as powerful reminders that we can do something about even the very deep, personal, character-based issues that impact our credibility, which is the prerequisite of trust. 

Core 3: Capabilities

Using the metaphor of a tree, capabilities are the branches that produce the fruits or the results. Capabilities are particularly essential in today's changing economy, where technology and globalization are outdating skill sets faster than ever before. 

One way to think about the various dimensions of capabilities is to use the acronym TASKS (Talents, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, Style).

Talents are our natural gifts and strengths. Attitudes represent our paradigms - our way of seeing - as well as our ways of being. Skills are our proficiencies, the things we can do well. Knowledge represents our learning, insight, understanding, and awareness. Style represents our approach and personality. 

The end in mind here is to develop our TASKS and to create the best possible alignment between our natural gifts, our passions, our skills, knowledge and style and the opportunity to earn, to contribute, to make a difference.

To enhance credibility by increasing capabilities:

  1. Run with your strengths.
  2. Keep yourself relevant.
  3. Know where you're going. 

Core 4: Results

Results matter! They matter to your credibility. In the words of Jack Welch, having results is like having "performance chits" on the table. They give you clout. 

Returning once again to the tree metaphor, results are the fruits - the tangible, measurable, end purpose and product of the roots, trunk, and branches. 

There are three key indicators by which people evaluate results: past performance, present performance, and anticipated future performance. 

Given the importance of results in establishing credibility and trust both with ourselves and with others, the question is: How can we improve our results?

  1. Take responsibility for results. 
  2. Expect to win.
  3. Finish strong.

Learn The 13 Behaviors that build character and competence, resulting in increased credibility. 

Credible leaders know how to build the trust necessary to propel their organization—and the people in it—forward. Here are seven ways to build trust between you and your team. 

Previous Article
Achieving Results in Unpredictable Times
Achieving Results in Unpredictable Times

In times of great uncertainty, leaders can freeze to the point of inaction or execute with excellence, incr...

Next Video
Counterfeiting Your Culture
Counterfeiting Your Culture

Trust is common sense but not common practice. See how it can hurt and help your company.