Leading Beyond Authority

by Julia Middleton

10. Passion and resonance

Beyond your authority, you have to have passion. This comes in different forms. It may either be direct, loud and demanding, or softly spoken, private and understated. Regardless passion is what people long for in their leaders. Leading change in an area where you lack direct control and authority can take a long time or become frustrating when compared with the experience of effecting change where you have great positional power, due to your expertise or professional status.

The determination and patience needed to see this through is largely dependent on the leader’s passion for the issue. Passion often comes from a deep sense of anger, annoyance or frustration. This may arise for many reasons, both personal and professional; it may even result from an unsolved problem or a missed opportunity. In all cases, the manner in which a leader communicates this passion will have a significant effect on their ability to connect to other leaders, to involve people in their challenge and to effect change.

Passion can get in the way

There will be times when a leader gets it wrong by displaying their enthusiasm and excitement when what was needed was a calmer and more dispassionate approach. Equally, on different occasions, a sense of passion and display of care may be needed to break a deadlock or inspire others. In most cases, it will be important to know what you want from a meeting or discussion, so you ensure are picking the right battles.

Resonance

Leading change in areas where you do not have direct authority means you will always need to keep a check on who you are working with, where they come from and what motivates them. This is essential if you are to be able to communicate effectively with the many and varied people, departments and organisations you will be working with. The range of different people, ways of working and professional languages requires a leader to find ways to resonate, express themselves and get people listening without just shouting louder.

I spend my time trying to minimise the difference between myself and my audience, so that I minimise the difference between us and our interests. Then, hopefully, I come across as more reasonable and so more convincing.

Shami Chakrabati, of Human Rights campaign group, Liberty

Why think about this?

If you want to understand more about this, you may

  • Want insights into how to sustain yourself when pushing for change in a large organisation
  • Be finding it hard to build coalitions and get people inspired by their change
  • Want to improve your ability to resonate across different organisations