Leading Beyond Authority

by Julia Middleton

The inner circle of authority

Most leaders have an inner circle, where they are in authority. Of course, they must motivate the people in their circle, but ultimately they can bonus or sack them. Here, the leaders have authority; they are ‘in control’; they can choose to use their authority to a greater or lesser extent, but everyone knows that this is the bottom line. On the whole, the people they lead are minded to follow (admittedly, they won’t give it their all unless they are motivated and inspired by their leader).

I call this the ‘circle of authority’. Its boundaries are usually coterminous with the leader’s budget. It is often a department or a division or a section of the organisation they operate in. They have usually been appointed or elected to the role. Sometimes it’s huge, sometimes it’s small, but everyone knows what it is – and where it ends.

Most of the recognition leaders get is for what they achieve in this space – their personal circle of authority. By the same token, most of the leadership development they receive as they progress (under the heading of supervisory training, or management development, or leadership education) aims to make them more effective in this circle.