Leading Beyond Authority

by Julia Middleton

Ten keys to leading beyond authority

To write my book, Beyond Authority: Leadership in a Changing World, I interviewed 83 leaders from across the world. From these conversations, I was able to identify ten common behaviours that people who lead beyond authority exhibit. Getting to grips with these is a crucial part of exploring leading beyond authority. Below is some food for thought, based on these ten key elements.

1. What should you leave behind?

How do you adapt quickly to new circumstances and rules, or develop new ways of dealing with an existing situation? The beliefs and behaviours that have served you well may no longer remain useful. How do you balance intellectual rigour with a greater willingness to adapt, listen and understand someone else’s truth? More...

2. Adapting to a new environment

Moving into new, unfamiliar territory is an integral part of leading beyond authority. It involves acclimatising to the new world and coping with challenges to your legitimacy. It can feel lonely. It’s not just about getting things right – it’s about learning the rules to the game, creating networks and building coalitions. More...

3. Who do you need to be?

Leadership is about doing the right things – and being brave enough and independent enough to say no to the wrong ones. Developing your personal brand – and protecting it – is critical. What are the roles of humility, self-belief and independence in being authentic? What do you want to be? And what do you need to be? More...

4. Pace and timing

Leading beyond authority is all about pace and timing: It’s about keeping going, sometimes slowing down to make sure people are with you, but never losing momentum and never going backwards. How do you recognise obstacles and how do you use energy and pace to overcome them? More...

5. Resetting your radar

This theme is about stepping forward not backwards. When leading beyond authority, your interactions with people, the way you get new insights and ideas, and your ability to build coalitions all become more important. Where do you draw power and influence? Where do you find your ideas? Who do you network with? More...

6. Sources of power

Our ability to effect change is greatly influenced by our understanding of power – where it comes from and how we use it. When leading within our authority, we often draw our power from our role or position (the ‘legitimate’ power of rank or ability to reward), or possibly from our specialised knowledge and experience (expert power). How can we generate the ability to influence and to lead in situations where we have no legitimate or expert power? More...

7. Playing different roles

We are all familiar with the various roles we play as part of our daily lives, in and outside of work. It is likely that we have a ‘successful’ default position and choose to play this role in most situations. An essential part of leading beyond authority is understanding the need for and being able to play different roles, in different positions, at different times – depending on the situation. More...

8. Courage and caution

Stepping into the unknown, within or beyond your existing role, takes courage – courage to start and courage to continue. However, it isn’t as simple as jumping over a hedge without looking first. It involves building an understanding of the issues, challenges, risks and the other stakeholders involved. More...

9. Consensus versus coalition

You may know where you stand on the issue; you may have identified what needs to be done differently; you may have the skills to communicate passionately – but how do you start to lead change? The people involved are central to making any change happen. So you must ensure you gather the necessary intelligence and build the coalitions you need. More...

10. Passion and resonance

Beyond your authority, you have to have passion. It comes in different forms. It may be direct, loud and demanding, or softly spoken, private and understated. Passion is what people long for in their leaders. But passion alone is not enough – you need to have resonance too. More...