Authority and the dangers of “Telling”

Chances are, any perceived or actual authority / responsibility that you have gained has been truly earned. Let’s assume you didn’t sleep your way to the top so somewhere, someone along the line thought that you were smart enough and hardworking enough to be in charge of something. Welcome to the intoxication of authority.

Being ‘in charge’ may mean different things to different people. Do you get a charge out of seeing a team come together through your support to achieve their goals? Does it make you feel better about yourself to know that you are literally someone’s boss and occasionally acting on that title’s privileges? Are you terrified every morning and every night of the burdens of the responsibility that your position holds? These emotions and many in between are a common thread of every manager, supervisor, and chief from the mailroom to the corner office. Another common thread is that this authority is given to you (hopefully earned by you) and can be taken from you (that is earned too)!

In this blog, I have spoken before about the need for timely, decisive action, fair and just decision-making and the difficult but necessary role of standing strong through opposition. As you continue to gain respect and authority by executing these above acts of quality leadership, you must always remember that you authority is a privilege granted to you by your team, your staff, your colleagues.

There will be many tough decision and many staff members who need your strong guidance. Never hesitate and always be clear when providing it. However, the second your staff begins to question your rationale, and starts to feel like they are being spoken at and not communicated with, the erosion of your authority has begun. It is not likely that your staff truly doubts your qualifications. However, timely or not, there is a light-year of difference between explaining why a difficult decision was necessary versus just dolling out orders without appreciating the value in justifying yourself.

Authority is a privilege. Value that privilege by making timely, fair decisions. Respect those who have honored you with that privilege by explaining your decisions. This respect will be reciprocated and your authority may grow.

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