The Dirty Truth About Acting Without Permission

muddy hands

You say you want people to act without asking permission. In truth, you want them to do what you want them to do without being told.

How many times have you said, “Just go do it. You don’t need my permission.”

Leadership by decree isn’t leadership.

Other than saying, “You don’t need my permission,” what’s in place that enables action without permission?


The problem with stepping up is being slapped down.

People go with the flow unless acting without permission is safe.

Acting without permission:

#1. Declare yourself sooner. No one likes getting answers from on high. Stop sitting in solitude solving problems on your own.

Engage people if you expect them to be engaged.

Begin by working with your team to create an environment where acting without permission is safe.

#2. Define when permission is necessary.

  1. How much money can be spent?
  2. How many staff can be involved?
  3. Can cross department activities occur?

Authority is permission to act without permission. Negotiate the extent and limits of their authority and yours.

#3. Develop shared vision.

People don’t act when they don’t know where to go.

Invite team members to develop personal vision statements that fully align with organizational mission, vision, and values.

Develop a future that excites them. Ask, “How can you make your area reflect your passion?”

#4. Get out of the way. The hardest thing leaders do is not getting involved. Accountability is necessary; your involvement isn’t.

#5. Let failure happen. Let it hurt. Let them learn. They don’t own it until they own the failure, too. The moment you slap someone down for stepping up is the last time they step up.

#6. Expect results. The biggest failure is refusing to step up. After that, ask, “How could this be remarkable?”

#7. Celebrate success.

How can leaders create environments where acting without permission is safe?

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