Leading Beyond Authority

by Julia Middleton

What does it mean to lead beyond authority?

People who lead beyond their authority are more skilled than others in several aspects of leadership.

They see the wider context and their role in it:

  • Expecting complexity and producing clarity
  • Anticipating interconnectivity and finding common ground
  • Developing diverse networks which help them see angles and opportunities
  • Spotting talent in all worlds, not just their own.

They adapt fast in new surroundings:

  • Stepping forward rather than backwards when faced with the unfamiliar
  • Being open to challenge, listening hard and asking questions
  • Coping with confrontation, resisting judging too quickly and avoiding the assumption that theirs is the only way
  • Inspiring trust among people who are very different from them
  • Learning to speak other people’s languages, not just their own.

They produce change wherever they are:

  • Understanding how power works in different worlds by finding out where real power is and spotting relationships between players
  • Influencing others in different worlds and taking things forward without simply seeking consensus
  • Drawing out the creativity and innovation that diverse teams offer
  • Inspiring in all worlds, not just their own.

Let’s face it, many leaders don’t like it when they are not the boss. They have worked hard to get where they are, and they want to enjoy it. But, for me, one of the key roles of a leader is to push the boundaries out. Leaders have to make people feel uncomfortable. To do this, you have to feel uncomfortable yourself.

Diana Parker, Chair, Withers Worldwide