Coaching and Development

Leading without Authority

Leading without authority is the sign of a true leader, and a sure path to success. Here are some strategies to get you there.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we need to lead or influence people who don’t report to us – read we have no power over. Okay, we often find ourselves in this position. In fact, this is what true leadership is, being able to move people along without the authority to just tell them what to do.

If you can master this skill you’ll achieve greater success in your professional and personal life. So, with that in mind, here are some tips for leading without authority.

Building your network

By creating a strong network inside and outside your company, you can align yourself with people who are more likely to be willing to help you when you need it. It’s not just about building a bigger list of contacts, though; you have to give them reason to want to help you. To do that, you should look for opportunities to help them first.

When you first meet someone, ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Find out what’s important to them and see if you can offer them help, or connect them with someone who can. This kind of goodwill creates allies you can call on when you need them.

Focus on mutual benefit

When you do need to get someone to help you with a project or buy into a change initiative, don’t try to sell them on the reason you think they should do it. Find out what’s important to them and find a way to connect the dots to your project. Show them how it will benefit them. Better yet, take the time to discuss the issue with them and get their input. They may have an idea that will improve your idea and by adapting to their needs you’re much more likely to create a champion.

Go beyond the rational and connect emotionally

Many people talk a lot about the “what” of their wants and focus on logic, thinking that this will sway people. People are much more likely to be swayed if you focus on appealing to them on an emotional level. Can you share a story? One that illustrates the importance of what you’re asking and provides an example of the benefits and delves into the “why” we want something? Stories are much more likely to grip us emotionally.

Author and speaker Simon Sinek, in his book Start with Why, asserts that great leaders are able to inspire people to act. They do this by using the “why” to reach people on an emotional level and create loyalty.

It’s critical when using this approach that you are authentic and always speak from the heart. Otherwise, this becomes manipulation and it may influence behavior in the short-term, but it won’t inspire loyalty.

Adapting your approach

People like to do things for people they like. The value of connection and chemistry cannot be overstated when talking about leading without authority.  If two people get along and really like each other, they’re much more likely to go out of their way to help each other out.

You can do a lot to establish and grow that rapport by taking the time to understand other people’s personalities and communication styles and taking steps to adapt your own style when dealing with them. To do this you need to understand yourself, your natural behavioral style, and your biases, and those of the person. Then you can consider how you may be able to adapt your normal approach to more effectively communicate and connect.

For example, when someone does a McQuaig assessment, the system provides a report that captures their natural behavioral traits across four trait scales. It measures things like the pace they like to work at, whether they are social or more analytical, how driven they are to achieve goals, and how independent they may be, among other things.

Employees at one of our clients post their McQuaig Profile graph (a graph illustrating where they fall on the four behavioral trait scales) on their doors or cubicles. That way everyone knows everyone else’s natural temperament or personality. This makes for much more effective interactions because everyone understands where others are coming from and what they need in terms of communication and information.

Even if you’re the CEO of a company, you’ll be a much more effective leader if you can master leading without authority. And if you’re with the rest of us, you’ll increase your chances of becoming that CEO, or achieving whatever your goals may be.

Do you have any tips for influencing people in situations where you have no power?


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