Credentials Matter. . . but Don’t

When I started my Ph.D. program, the dean of the school said that those three letters behind our names would open up doors we couldn’t yet imagine. Having the right degree or certification is important and often necessary to land your dream job, build your income stream, or achieve your dreams, but leaders also recognize where credentials really don’t matter.

Have you ever hired someone who looked good on paper, had all the right credentials, and received great references, only to find out they lacked the skills needed to do the job? If you’ve hired more than one person, you probably have.

Credentials are great, and I encourage you to continue your education, pursue specializations, and earn all the accolades you can. The experience you gain in those pursuits is often more beneficial than the paper you get to hang on your wall at the end of it.

You can’t rely on your credentials though. Employers need experience, and followers need leaders who can speak to a situation with the wisdom that comes from going through life.

Your followers will respect your education and certifications. They are good for establishing your positional power when you’re new on the scene. If on the other hand, you want to maintain their respect, gain their trust, and enjoy their loyalty, you must have practical experience that demonstrates your leadership was formed in the fires of life rather than the ivory towers of academia.

Your experience doesn’t have to encompass decades or include extraordinary situations. Leverage the experience you have. Here are a few ways:

When using experience to provide guidance, use specific situations. People are assured when someone has made it through a situation similar to what they’re facing. The more specific your experience to what people are facing at the time, the better the impact of sharing your experience.

Save your anecdotes for when they’re needed by the follower and not just because you want to share. Talking about yourself without it benefitting the listener (from their perspective) comes across as vain and arrogant.

Focus your conversation on the experience your followers are facing and how they’ll benefit from it. Make it all about them. Your experiences are less helpful if it only comes across to others as how great you are for making it. Your people need to know that what they’re facing is important to their growth as a person and a professional.

Experience is the credential that gives you the skills you need to succeed. As a leader, you must also recognize that experience is the tool you use to maximize the skill sets of your people.

Question: How do you incorporate experience into the way you guide up and coming leaders? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I am an author, speaker, and leader with a passion for developing people into practical leaders who put their principles into practice. I am the co-author of the acclaimed book Faith Acts with best-selling author Dillon Burroughs, the Chief Operations Officer at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, and an independent leadership consultant to up and coming leaders and start up nonprofit organizations. My greatest joy, however, is serving Christ and his Church. I am the proud husband of Shay and father of two great boys. We live in Chattanooga, TN. #NoogaStrong

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or downright annoying.

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