The New Secret To C-Suite Success? Believability

Trust and authenticity have always mattered, but the qualities are taking on a new importance today’s social media age.

You may not see it listed under “required skills and qualifications,” but believability is trending as a necessity to succeed in the workplace. Naming the concept might be new, but the defining characteristics have increased in importance as we soldier on into this rapidly evolving technological age. Believability can be summarized as a pairing of influence, authority, credibility, trust and reputation. And for anyone looking to move ahead in the workplace, this is non-negotiable.

While any member of an organization will benefit from exemplifying genuine believability, it’s becoming a core C-Suite capability that must continuously be nurtured. Information spreads exponentially faster than it did in years prior, which implies easy accessibility, but also places a heavier responsibility on the individual to, for lack of a better phrase, know their stuff. Executives are more visible than ever before, in large part due to how easily we can be recorded, dissected, posted and shared.

In such a visible role, your character is on display for judgment and commentary at all times. And in a position of power on such a public platform, nothing can be contrived.

How a leader presents themselves to the public drives the collective perception and reputation of the organization they represent. Employees have a stronger voice in 2022, and those voices can quickly take over the narrative and business focus. Failure to practice believability has the potential to leave an individual reeling and unable to control the discourse or steer assumptions of their capability.

So what does this mean for C-Suite executives? It’s no longer enough to be the “smart” one, or the “idea person” or the “work horse.” Truthfully, just being a “good” manager won’t cut it anymore either. Earning an opportunity at the C-Suite level is about enterprise thinking and relationships, and beyond that, how to pair the two successfully. It’s about mastering thoughtful communication that not only focuses on the message you send, but the way it is received. There are countless iterations of “Instagram reality” amongst communication efforts—in other words, a contrived, disingenuous message designed to garner a specific response. 

How can you be more believable in the workplace?

First and foremost, invest in a good executive communications person who has a strong grasp on the basics of effective internal and external communication. While this may seem unnecessary, far too many people lack a clear understanding of a fundamental communication model—and they pay the price for it.

Lead with authenticity any time the opportunity presents itself. The caveat here is that believability is built up with equity over time. We’re not just talking about authenticity as an executive buzzword, but how it’s portrayed throughout consistent messaging. Audiences and consumers alike are relentless in their pursuit of cracks in the Instagram reality, making candid, authentic content vital. This might seem like a no-brainer, but so many fail to do so and face far more difficulty establishing themselves as believable.

Be prepared with communication efforts in advance. You will be far more comfortable when faced with different frameworks of communication, whether simple conversation or debate. A believable leader has conviction, believes what they say and says things that are a reflection of what they stand for. It’s clear they have thought through solutions, answers and ideas thoroughly before attempting to participate. Not only do they demonstrate confidence and knowledge, but they are open to opinions on the opposite side of the aisle. You cannot have a belief system if you don’t understand all sides.

I’ll leave you with four questions to ponder and reflect upon to feel firm in your believability:

  1. What do I believe?
  2. What is my authentic leadership style?
  3. What am I not comfortable addressing, and why?
  4. How would I break through those barriers to address it?

Take the time to ruminate on these questions and build confidence on the answers that feel true to you. The action items are simple, but that does not directly imply easy. Ultimately it comes down to consistency in authentic communication—both within the organization and externally on social platforms or mass communications. Be intentional with your words; don’t just speak for the sake of having a presence in the conversation without having substance to offer backed by factual information and a solid belief system.