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Real Authority

November 6, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Many organizations and teams do not easily accept the structure and accountability that comes with a formal project management approach, e.g. responsibility without authority. The problem of leading without authority comes up all the time, and is a major concern of line staff tasked with making things happen.

How do you work with a team that has this mindset? The answer is to get that authority. We don’t mean bucking for a promotion and using your position as the façade of authority. Instead, we mean you must create that authority, that you must position yourself as the authoritative figure on a subject. When you have created the genuine authority, the authority of an acknowledged expert, of a proven team mate, of a consistent contributor; then your team will follow you anywhere.

Here’s the three-step process we teach our front line staff:

  • Establish credibility – Know the subject matter inside and out. Have the historical records that support your position. Deal in facts that can be documented and defended. Get to know the historical stakeholders, and what exactly their stake is. When asked, have the answer. Rush to the defense, with data in hand, of any teammate being put on the spot. Consistently.
  • Show up ready to work – Come in early. Stay late. Help a colleague that’s behind. Know when others are engaged in a tough, tedious task, and help them get it done. Consistently. Be seen. Demonstrate your investment in the project outcomes.
  • Add value – This is the most important: you have to be seen as consistently adding value to your teammates. Know where and when trouble will arrive. Be there waiting for it with the plan already in action. When you are seen as adding value, your credibility and worth to the team are acknowledged.

When the team looks to you for knowledge, output, for results, and trusts that you can deliver results and advocate for the team, then the formal authority that comes with title isn’t needed. By the time you actually get that authority, you’ll already have everything you need: a network of loyal supporters.

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