Leading Without Authority

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I often hear complaints from people having trouble getting what they need from colleagues who don’t report to them. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Demonstrating leadership is possible (and important) in your job even if a word like “executive” or “officer” is not part of your job title. It takes understanding yourself and those around you.

When you aren’t in a position of authority, you can’t just direct people to take action. So, what strategies can you use instead? Here are three to try.

Determine how others view you

You’ll be most effective in influencing others if you first examine your own reputation. What others think of you will affect how they interpret your suggestions. If, for example, you’re known for always doing the right thing for the business, it may make it easier to get traction. Also consider whether any part of your reputation could stand in the way of what you’re trying to accomplish. Perhaps your directness rubs some people the wrong way, so you may need to consider that as you develop the best approach.

Leverage your advocates

Get clear on who does have power and influence to help you in the current situation, and remember to consider informal and formal leaders. Based on the messages that need to be delivered, who would be most effective in conveying them? Who would have the biggest impact? Request the involvement of these individuals by explaining the bigger picture, the key business results you are trying to achieve.

Build alignment

To more effectively lead without authority, find the alignment between your goals and what’s important to others. Look for the common ground you already share with the people you want to influence, and frame your suggestions in that context. Perhaps it’s a commitment to innovation or customer service.

You can then work to drive alignment in other areas. People will be more receptive to what you want when you invest in taking time to understand their needs. How will what you’re asking of them affect their results, their credibility and their relationships? What data and other information can you give them to show how will they benefit?

This week, think about something you’re working on and one step you can take to leverage one of these strategies to make further progress. Even if you do have formal authority, this exercise can still be useful. Remember that small steps lead to big results. For more ideas on this topic, see the modules on Getting the Right Work Done and Building a Network of Advocates in the WOW! Lite Program℠

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