Ten Ways to Gain Initiative by Giving Authority
Ineffective leaders seize and hoard authority; successful leaders give it. Those who cling to authority loose it. Those who give authority gain authority.
Authority is permission to act without permission.
Control freaks never inspire initiative. The more they control the less initiative – acting without permission – others take. Inspire initiative by giving authority.
Giving authority enhances your authority.
Releasing others to act apart from your direct guidance motivates them to seek your guidance. Delegating decisions enhances commitment to you and your organization.
People who believe they matter act like they matter.
- Train and equip to handle authority effectively.
- Begin slowly.
- Establish structures and systems that guide and limit authority.
- Give decisions to those impacted by decisions.
- Create titles. Titles convey authority and they don’t cost anything.
- Create revised, temporary chains of command based on organizational context and team member competence.
- Publicly explain new authority.
- Establish the authority of others by deferring to those with expertise.
- Share benefits and consequences of mistakes. Teams who hire a poor fit need to deal with replacing or reassigning them, for example.
- Never neglect your authority.
Give teams authority to hire co-workers.
You lose authority when others believe you are neglecting authority or passing the buck. Giving authority isn’t an excuse to not do your job.
Giving authority – asking people to act without permission – is the leaders job.
Who to trust with authority:
- Do they clearly understand, embrace, and exemplify values, mission, and vision?
- Do they understand organizational context and consequences of decisions?
- Have they demonstrated competence?
- Do they embrace accountability for choices? How have they dealt with past failures? Blame or responsibility.
Gain authority by giving it.
How can leaders effectively give authority?
I think “Giving authority enhances authority” is powerful statement and actually true. I also agree that those who desire authority are mostly inclined to power. Power and position is deeply linked. And position provides power. I believe those who need power may gain authority by their position in the internal set up, but they fail to gather power outside. And effective leaders know it. They do not believe in the power of position. They believe in people power. And people power can be achieved by giving not holding power. So, I agree with your concept.
The important point to note here is that what is our intention to have power. If someone has great vision to have power so that it can be used to help people, it is good. However, if someone has desire to garner fame or prestige just by having power, then it is not good. So, we need to see the hidden intention about having power or willing to have power. And to know this, we need to ask simple question- What inspires you to have power? I think this can reveal many things.
You help us remember that the desire for authority, power, greatness or whatever isn’t good or bad…it’s the motive that makes the difference. Thank you
The giving of authority is a gradual process. As we gain more confidence in people’s abilities to rise to s challenges, especially when not asked to specifically, they earn trust and credibility. We can then feel comfortable expanding the things they control within their own sphere.
And importantly, you have pointed out that we lose control and destroy our own level of trust and credibility by holding on too tightly, treated people as if they are not smart enough to figure things out, or that they do not matter.
Good pos as always Dan.
I second Martina’s comment about the granting/accepting of authoritiy being a gradual process — it doesn’t simply happen if you say, “make it so.” Exactly how gradual the process is varies from person-to-person. Some people are more reluctant about taking on authority — because there’s a degree of risk involved.
Along with this, I feel that one aspect that makes people more willing to accept authority is how well we, as leaders, demonstrate our willingness to have their backs. It’s one thing to give someone authority, but then leave them hanging if everything doesn’t go just right; versus giving authority along with the assurance that every honest effort is going to receive our full support even if things might get off-track.
Agreed Scott. We must have their backs and supply some kind of resource and safety net as they stretch to meet new challenges.
We must likewise remember to celebrate the successes.
People will live up to, or down to the expectations of those who lead them. If they always need to downplay their skills or talents to help protect the ego of the leader, eventually the smart ones will leave and move on to more promising pastures.
Thanks Martina. Down the same line of going slowly we should be careful not to mistake talent with maturity. Doing so can lead to disaster. Many talented people are immature. That makes them potentially dangerous, susceptible to pride, and sometimes unwilling to listen.
Good point Dan. Some of the most talented can also be the most immature. So in addition to managing the tasks related to the job, they must also be taught to manage themselves.
I really like 4.Give decisions to those impacted by decisions.
When someone approaches me with problem X, I make them the Chairman of solving Problem X.
It’s funny how organizations that don’t create channels for people to participate complain how people are disengaged. 🙂
I love all of your columns but this one especially resonates with me. It is spot on! And such a paradigm shift for so many leaders. It brings to mind the Kouzes and Posner advice to “share power and discretion.” The way I see it, you have two choices: to pick the right people, provide them skills and resources they need to be effective, and watch them go! OR make your people fearful and powerless, and be forced to micromanage their every action. A no-brainer! Why so rare??
Exactly, why so rare. Perhaps we have a trust issue?
Dan, Back when I had a “real” job (aka corporate lackey) I always thought my real job was to make myself redundant. The closer I got to that the better my team became in motivation, autonomy, passion and business competence. And the more I started to look for my next challenge.
Fantastic dynamic! Love how giving authority to others frees you to look for the next challenge.
Good article I’m amazed by how many managers are liked in their roles, when they only leverage their own strengths and hide those of their teams.
Sad but true
Until you start giving authority, you can’t find out if you can replace yourself. You’ll never know whom you can trust. That also makes it impossible to have down-time; or at least not without worrying or checking your email every 30 minutes.
Another great angle on the benefits of giving authority.
To succeed in my opinion job number one, two three to infinity….duplicate yourself till you are FREE!!!!!
The Dude Abides!
Let my people go!
This is such a great description of authority and sums it up in one memorable phrase – “Authority is permission to act without permission”. It grows gradually, through trust and experience. Once you find what you are good at, you find your niche, and it seems to me your authority grows naturally. You have to be willing to leave your comfort zone to get there, though!
Well said! I really like this!
I also know that part of giving authority is allowing people to represent you (the leader) in some situations. In other words, you do not have to go everywhere yourself, but you can send representatives.
And… In the church, do not give authority to new believers, and do not give non-biblical authority to women.
Today I am completely embracing words like “Fool, Freak, Nitwit” and so on. Thanks to self control I have not used them. Thanks for your numbered lists of many leadership dos and don’ts.