How can a leader obtain legitimacy?

Recently I received this question . . . How can a leader obtain legitimacy?

Before I replied, I pulled several resources and begin to write.  Of course, nothing is simple . . . I accidently terminated the email before I submitted my answer!  But, I did not give up!  Here’s how I responded . . .

You have asked a very complex question using just a few words. In most cases, legitimate leaders are recognized though their consistent behavior that generates respect, trust, and accountability from those in the group. Two books I suggest for your reading include “The Truth about Leadership” by Kouzes & Posner and “Real Leadership” by Dean Williams.  Both books will give you insight into the characteristics and practices of a person with influence.

From my personal experience, I have found that legitimacy is defined by time and consistent behavior.  Does the person have a vision/focus for creating a better environment/community?  Is the person willing to ask the right questions and move planning into action?  Will the person encourage others to work and build their own legitimate leadership style?  Will the leader support and celebrate others as they achieve success without having to receive the recognition?

Every day you will work to do your tasks with the best thinking, skills, and talents you have to offer.  Every day you will build your reputation as a leader.  It really is up to you what that reputation will be.

What would you have said?

Martha Walker

4 thoughts on “How can a leader obtain legitimacy?

  1. Martha

    You are right . . .this is so true! When team members are asked to perform tasks because the designated leader doesn’t want to do something or thinks it is “beneath his/her position,” those team members become very frustrated and resentful and the respect and trust are put in jeopardy.

    But if we think about this in a different way . . . Effective leaders create highly-skilled teams who have abilities that the leader does not have and can accomplish things the leader cannot accomplish. The leader may be willing to do whatever the task is but realizes that he/she does not have that expertise.

  2. Cathryn Kloetzli

    I am at the beginning of this process but one thing to add is that it has been helpful for me to reach out to and connect with strong community leaders who are already established and influential with the communities that my work focuses on. They have allowed me the opportunity to meet others who can help further the work I’m doing and connect me with the communities I want to reach. And while there is no way to fasttrack through the legitimacy that comes with time and consistent behavior, working with these community leaders has certainly helped me to gain credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of my community.

  3. Jeannie

    I agree with everyone’s comments above! I wanted to add my experience because this goes along with your comments. I am still relatively new as an agent but I was the Ag teacher and FFA Advisor for 8 years at the high school and I built a strong program that I was very proud of. While teaching, I always felt that much of what I did and accomplished with the program and my “kids” went unnoticed by folks outside of the school system (even by those in the school system!). I never worried because my focus was always on my “kids” not my own personal glory. In my role as ANR Agent I am beginning to work with more of the “higher-ups”, the “important” people if you will – :-)! In doing so, I am learning that more people noticed what I have been doing than I ever thought and I am being included in town/County projects because of it. My point is…people are always watching how you handle yourself as a leader even when you don’t think they are!!


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