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Developing your credibility credentials

February 22, 2022
UBC MEL MHLP Developing Credibility Credentials

Think of the leaders you most respect and trust. No matter what is their field or position, they likely share numerous qualities that make them stand out. And it’s likely that one of those qualities is their credibility.

If you want to move into a leadership position, graduate programs like the Master of Engineering Leadership and the Master of Health Leadership and Policy that offer a diverse range of leadership development experiences can help you boost your credibility and set you up to succeed as a leader – as is shown by the successful career trajectories of our hundreds of alumni.

In his Strategy+Business article “Credibility credentials matter,” author James Ashton argues that “credibility is the gateway qualification to lead.” Credible leaders inspire confidence and they are trusted by their teams.


But where does that credibility come from? Ashton says that credibility derives from a mix of credentials, the right combination of experience, and the more intangible sense that the leader is up to the challenge.

Credentials can be important. For many leadership positions, a master’s degree is required before you can even be considered for a shortlist. Other times, having those initials after your name to show you’ve completed a master’s program sets you apart from others vying for the same position.

Experience matters. A health care leader who has worked in a variety of frontline positions will have more credibility amongst a diverse group of employees than someone parachuted in from a different industry entirely. A leader overseeing large infrastructure projects will inspire more confidence in their team if they have a track record of contributing expertise to similar projects in the past.

This is not to say you need to be the ultimate expert in your field. As Ashton says, if that was the case, “a battle-scarred James Bond would long ago have been pulled from the field and promoted to the help of MI6 if the top job were simply a matter of derring-do.” Instead, credibility comes from having specific legitimacy-conferring expertise paired with a broad familiarity of how all the various parts of your industry fit together.

Finally, Ashton argues that a leader’s “infectious enthusiasm” has a “direct correlation with gaining credibility” and that “technocratic credentials are seen as bringing credibility, but passion can establish your credibility, too.”


Graduate programs like the MEL and MHLP are one pathway for gaining the credibility you need to lead.

For starters, they lead to a respected credential and the ability to proudly say that you have completed a master’s degree at a world-recognized university. A master’s degree tells prospective employers that you have a commitment to lifelong learning and investing in yourself and your development as a leader.


Second, these unique degrees enable you to deepen your technical credentials in your industry. The MEL and MHLP offer 10 sector-specialization programs that support graduates to gain new knowledge and skills in their industry area, building on the years of professional experience they already have. These courses are balanced with courses offered through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School on business, management and leadership.

The value of this integrated approach is significant. As academic director Justin Bull says, “Together, these courses give students an integrated understanding of the most important issues in their industry and an appreciation of the tactics and strategies for leading projects and teams to sustainable solutions.”


Many of the business courses, and the other professional development opportunities offered throughout the year, explicitly focus on leadership development. The organizational leadership class offered in the first semester, for example, provides a framework for thinking about leadership and helps students learn how to lead.

As Garry Singh, a graduate of the MHLP in Seniors Care described, “This class laid the foundation and introduced us to a range of leadership strategies and the importance of clear communication, effective delegation, transparency and ethics. Another big takeaway for me from this class was the importance of emotional intelligence and being empathetic to your team and listening to their needs.”

Classroom discussions and case study analysis are complemented by hands-on leadership development opportunities woven throughout all technical and business courses. Industry-based projects, capstone and practicums enable students to build skills, broaden their expertise and gain credibility as leaders. Group work is the norm in all courses, with students working with classmates from a diverse range of professional and personal backgrounds. This creates a learning environment where students practice and build skills in communication and teamwork, making them more confident and credible leaders after graduating.

This was the case for Negin Afrooz, who was a student in the MEL in Advanced Materials Manufacturing. She says that the combination of hands-on experience and leadership skills gave her the credibility to advance in her career. “The leadership credential definitely helped me out, particularly as I didn’t have direct experience in the industry,” she says. “It gave me the confidence and knowledge to tackle my first independent project.”


As for Ashton’s final point that credible leaders are those who display an infections enthusiasm and passion for their work, the MEL and MHLP attracts professionals who are eager to innovate in their industry and take on new challenges.

As academic director Justin Bull says, “The degrees also confer legitimacy, demonstrating that the student has taken on a significant challenge – often moving across the country or continent – to invest in their professional development.”

Gaining leadership credibility credentials can be tricky when you are in the early stages of advancing into leadership positions. That’s where graduate degrees like the MEL and MHLP can really make the difference: conferring you with the academic credential of a master’s degree combined with extensive experiences throughout the program that enable you to build your credibility as a leader in your field.