Jay Rifenbary

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Credibility - More Than Just a Diploma

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Recently, I was told that it was hypocritical for me when I primarily discuss personal and professional development, to venture away from those topics and ponder other issues, in this case a political viewpoint in regard to leadership. I was also told I would lose credibility if I took a stand, and voiced my opinion related to politics and made it public. Could that be any more incredible?

My goodness, where are we going as a citizenry when voicing an opinion and taking a stand on a belief decreases your credibility? If that were the case, we might as well throw courage into the human character trashcan. Credibility is established, or negated, based on principled behavior not an opinion. Because a person has an opinion not in alignment with yours does not mean he or she is not credible. Credibility is defined as, "worthy of belief or confidence, trustworthy; capable of being believed, believable." Worthy of belief or confidence is established by ones character, and the behaviors reflecting that character.

What makes you credible? It will always be your behaviors that supersede your degrees, diplomas, and the number of letters after your name that legitimizes your credibility. Having attended West Point certainly provides credibility, but it is my behavior that either validates or diminishes the credibility of attending that institution, and the ideals it represents. You can have a bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doctoral degree in a certain field, but it is the application of those credentials that establishes your credibility. Reinforcing that credibility with a consistency in behavior that reflects your core values is integrity, establishing your reputation.

Reputation is defined as, "the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or public generally; repute." What is your estimation of an individual who stands for nothing and is indecisive, or an individual who is inconsistent? For example, a person who professes tolerance and then is intolerant, righteous, and indignant when you disagree with them? I would doubt he or she would be a person who be held in favorable repute. Effective leadership is taking a stand, going out on a limb, thinking out of the box and being decisive. Ineffective leadership is flip flopping, being narrow-minded, going with the flow, being passive, bowing down to criticism, not stirring the pot, and lacking the courage to act on your principles. How many times have you heard someone say, " I don't agree, but I don't want to say, do, or attach my name to anything because it may cause someone to get upset at me.” Or, "I don't agree but that's not my problem, he is just an idiot, let someone else challenge him." Is that credible?

Everyone has the right to an opinion and the freedom to express it, thank you First Amendment. However, to personally attack another based on an opinion lacks integrity, and undermines credibility. Of course, we do not act on everything we disagree with, but there comes a time where we should all step up to the plate when we passionately believe in a cause. The beauty of our Constitution and the Democracy it supports is that it provides all of us the opportunity to do just that. Maybe everyone should take a deep breath in this present political environment, and realize that not everyone is always right or wrong all the time. If your feathers are ruffled because of an opinion then refute the opinion with facts and figures. I respect an individual who can take a stand on an issue and do it with professionalism and clarity, even if I do not agree with the stand they are taking.

As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle: Science without humanity; Business without ethics.”



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