Leading Beyond Authority

by Julia Middleton

Leading Beyond Authority

We all know about leadership. You take on a task, with a budget and a team. You’re the one in authority; you’re in charge. You set the objectives and have a timescale. And then it’s your job to pull it all together, to motivate the people who work for you and to get on with delivering it.

On the whole, most leadership development tells us how to perform well in this situation. Increasingly, however, this is not the only sort of leadership we are being called to deliver. Often, you’re not in charge; in fact, no one is. There is no budget. And there are no people who have to work for you.

Executives have to produce change within their organisations, but across functions they don’t control. Policemen have to work alongside health and housing professionals. Politicians have to draw communities together to plan for the future. Directors have to work with partners outside their business. Non-executives have to influence decisions that are not theirs to make.

Leadership is the incremental influence that a person has beyond his or her formal authority.

Vecchio, 1988

Across every sector, this is happening more and more. Boundaries are blurring. Authority is becoming less clear-cut. Partnership is proliferating. The traditional leadership tools work – but nothing like as well, or as often, as they used to. Increasingly, you need to supplement them with others. You need to lead beyond your formal realm of authority.

 

Copyright © Julia Middleton