3 Ways to Build Leadership Credibility

Leadership Credibility | Clinical Supervision | Better Outcomes Now

Are you running at the “speed of trust"? This concept, developed by management guru Stephen Covey, holds that the faster, and more effectively, you build trust, the better your results will be in terms of leadership, relationship, and connection.


For mental health and substance abuse professionals, accelerating the speed of trust and establishing leadership credibility is critical when engaging in clinical supervision (and, of course, with clients). These three steps will help guide you there:

1. Be There

This is important in any relationship, particularly when you are training or teaching. Dr. Cory Newman, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, says about his supervisees, “Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to be present and to be available. I want to be there for them when they are facing a very critical decision.” How you show up as “present” depends on your boundaries and relationships, but empathy is always at the core.

2. Lead by Example

You want trainees to practice evidence-based, compassionate care standards. You want them to be open, honest, and unflinching. This starts with you. Be transparent. Utilize best practices. Model the behavior and attitudes that you want others to feel comfortable emulating. Leadership credibility is built on your actions and willingness to show the way.

Dr. Judith Beck, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research and clinical associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, does this by conducting conscientious supervision sessions. She and her trainees set an agenda, agree on assignments, and engage in mutual feedback. “I directly model what I would like them to do in a therapy session.”

3. Have the Hard Conversations

A significant challenge in clinical supervision settings is delivering difficult feedback in terms of client care or performance. In fact, many supervisors shy away from doing so. This only causes the work, and the relationship, to suffer. It is like a CEO failing to call out sub-par performance and allowing it to continue draining the company’s resources and energy.

Don't avoid the hard conversations. Have them. Again, this is modeling what trainees will likely encounter in their working life, so position it as a learning experience. No judgment -- just an excellent opportunity to grow.

Ultimately, trainees who can hear this feedback and integrate suggestions will only be the better for it. They will also respect you more as a leader. However, leaders have to go a step beyond this -- holding supervisees accountable.

Better Outcomes Now offers a way to seamlessly integrate these conversations into clinical supervision meetings. Supervisors have an “at-a-glance” view of those clients on a supervisee’s caseload who are not benefiting from services and can then prioritize those clients for discussion. This gives clients a voice in the services they are receiving, even in a supervisory context, and offers opportunities for supervisors to brainstorm and role play ideas for the next session -- ultimately, holding clinicians accountable for the services they deliver.

Leadership credibility is essential in reaching and guiding those under your clinical supervision, but these tips can also inform any other relationship -- professional or personal.

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