Can You Lead Beyond Your Authority?

Lead-Beyond-Your-AuthorityCan you effectively lead beyond your authority?

No matter what your organizational model, your job frequently requires buy-in from people outside your direct authority. I see it all the time: in today’s complex and dotted-line cultures influencing people who report to someone else can prove daunting—and an even greater challenge if you confuse the principles of leadership and authority. (They’re not the same.)

Contrary to what you may have learned in leadership training, you can effectively guide people who are outside your realm of authority. To do so, you must understand what leadership truly is and how it appears to those who are looking for it.

I have written about this in the past: the traditional model of leadership requires control (authority) to “make” people do what they need to do. Pulling rank, so the thinking goes, forces them to fall in line and meet goals and objectives. Fortunately, this has become an outdated philosophy that ignores basic human behavior.

Authority, or Leadership?

People apply themselves and do their best when they want to, not when they’re forced to. From a motivational standpoint, they seek interest, satisfaction, purpose, inspiration and personal reward. Having a sense of value and accomplishment encourages engagement—a virtually impossible prospect when they feel they’re being controlled.

Leadership fosters inspiration, whereas authority produces obligation. Authority is the supervisory responsibility to direct, decide and delegate. It is sometimes misused for personal gain.

In contrast, leadership establishes goals or visions and inspires people to achieve them—a process accomplished through influence. Those influenced positively will follow willingly (the essence of true leadership).

Leadership success depends on knowing how to influence people and breed a desire to follow (as opposed to trying to mandate it via formal authority). Following a leader is a choice based on desire; trying to mandate it is misguided and ultimately doomed to fail.

Influence is the foundation of leadership, according to Clay Scroggins, author of How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority (Zondervan, 2017). “Leaders who consistently leverage their authority to lead are less effective in the long term than leaders who leverage their influence,” he writes. Again, human behavior is the driving factor.

While almost everyone has the ability to influence others and lead in some capacity, many leaders fail to be inspirational and fall back into their default position: an insistence on asserting their authority. Ugh! Numerous research studies confirm that positional authority does not guarantee effective leadership. In fact, you don’t have to look far to see strongly wielded authoritative power that led to some of the poorest leadership outcomes.

Your ability to influence people will determine whether you can lead those who report to others. In my following posts, I’ll share how you can increase your sphere of influence.

In the meantime, what do you think? Do people in your organization leverage their authority in an attempt to lead others? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

This entry was posted in executive leadership, leadership, outcomes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>