Leading Beyond Authority

by Julia Middleton

Common questions

  1. What is leading beyond authority?
  2. So why do it?
  3. What skills do people need to lead beyond authority?
  4. How can people learn these skills?
  5. How is leading beyond authority relevant to leaders of the future?

 

1. What is leading beyond authority?

Leading beyond authority means leading outside your direct circle of control to make change happen right across your organisation or in the wider world. It is an approach to leadership that breaks down the silo culture inside organisations and shows leaders, step-by-step, how to earn legitimacy in the outside world.

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2. So why do it?

As the world moves ever faster and the environment within which businesses and organisations operate becomes ever more fragmented, we need to develop leaders with new skill sets who can look outwards and use those skills to mould their surroundings to their advantage.

Leaders at all levels of an organisation find themselves in situations where they need to influence across or outside their organisations. Leading beyond authority can apply as much to middle managers as it does to CEOs and non-executive directors.

The leaders that are most in demand today are those that can motivate and engage people who are outside the scope of their functional responsibilities – where their ‘sphere of influence is greater than their sphere of control’.

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3. What skills do people need to lead beyond authority?

As organisational hierarchies continue to flatten out and as leaders continue to have an increased span of control, success in leading others over whom you do not have direct authority will become critical. This involves a very different set of leadership skills to those traditionally used to manage within the organisation.

People who lead beyond their authority are leaders who are better able to

  • See context and develop diverse networks
  • Adapt rapidly to new surroundings; step forward when faced with a challenge; cope with confrontation, and inspire trust
  • Produce change wherever they are by understanding how power works, how to inspire people and how to draw out the creativity that diverse teams offer.

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4. How can people learn these skills?

To lead beyond authority, leaders need to learn from a diverse group of people. They need to learn by going out beyond their own organisations and grappling with real-life problems first hand.

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5. How is leading beyond authority relevant to the leaders of the future?

Across every sector, boundaries are blurring. Authority is becoming less and less clear-cut. Partnership is proliferating. Leaders not only need to lead organisations effectively, more and more, they find themselves having to lead diverse networks too. 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.

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