Lead and Get Results Without Authority

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Have you ever been in a position where you need to get results from a work group but lack formal authority?

As workplaces become more collaborative, your ability to influence and lead—even when you’re not the boss—becomes more important.

You suggest a procedure change to your boss and suddenly she puts you in charge of making it happen. You contact some key people to get information and the permissions you need. When everything’s ready to roll out, you gather your team, explaining the new program. Everyone nods enthusiastically. Then nothing happens. They’ve got a lot going on—other priorities and demands on their time. They clearly don’t share your enthusiasm. Your boss is disappointed. But you can’t force them to adopt the new procedure. What can you do?

regular breaks help your productivityLogically, it seems follow-through would be better if you simply had more authority. And, in fact, if you find yourself in the position of leading a group frequently, asking for a job title change might make sense. But there’s much more to getting results than a higher spot on the organizational chart.

Effective leaders and managers—those who are the boss and have the title to go with it—know how to get things done without authority. They know that simply forcing people to do something and outlining consequences doesn’t work. It doesn’t lead to commitment and engagement.

They’ve learned techniques to influence others, to cultivate cooperation. And these approaches work, whether you have authority or not. Here are a few:

  1. lead by building mutual purposeBuild mutual purpose, suggests David Maxfield for vitalsmarts.com. Common goals help unite a group. Natural consequences of inaction can also be common. Start a discussion to help get agreement on the front end on what these shared goals and consequences are. Including others in discussions rather than simply telling people what to do builds trust. Ask for opinions. Ask questions such as: “What are we overlooking? What are the steps to make this happen? What if ….” Really listen to what others have to say.
  2. Build relationships/network, suggests kristakotria.com. Having access to people within your company or industry who can assist you in getting your job done is key to getting results. Equally important are your relationships with the people you’re leading. Openness and transparency in your interactions with colleagues also help build trust.
  3. Be enthusiastic. Emotions are contagious, suggests kristakotria.com. “Even if you’re not in charge, you can always take responsibility for raising the energy in the group and rallying people around a shared mission.”
  4. Uncover and remove obstacles together. Give the benefit of a doubt if someone agrees but doesn’t follow through; ask why. Use a 5 Why method of questioning where each question brings you closer to the root cause of inaction. Working together to remove the obstacles helps build credibility and common ground. 

Leadership skills are important at all levels of business. When you need to get results, but lack the title and authority to back up your request, knowing how to inspire and positively influence the people around you will help you get results.

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Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.