WHERE IS YOUR AUTHORITY?
One of the main frameworks in my Executive Coaching Program is this simple truth. “Authority not communicated is not authority.” I have met some amazing leaders through the work I do daily. They are talented, gifted, skilled and highly knowledgeable. Most often, what I find is that all the gems are hidden within their daily routine and when they show up for coaching, they are concerned about not getting through to their teams, not being recognized and always being perceived as the opposite to who they really are. So, the true question becomes, how do you become influential if your gems are not communicated through the same channels of your daily routine? How do people really get to like trust respect and follow you?
Authority as defined by Merriam Webster is the power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior. This means, you are not exercising your authority if you are not influencing your people. Irrespective of the type of leadership position you may hold, the skill of influence will always come into play. As leaders, one of the prominent channels by which we can communicate our authority is in the everyday things we do. Our authority should stem from who we are as individuals. The fact that we are leaders does not mean our humanity is separated from us. We do not have some sort of invisible cloak that shields the other parts of our lives. Many leaders try so hard to fit themselves into this persona that is unrecognizable and strict; too rigid that they cannot connect humanly to the people they are meant to influence.
It is often stated that the currency of leadership is power and authority. But there is something more valuable than both currencies, and that is Influence. Your authority emanates from your ability to influence people. The way you use such a skill will determine the relevance of your power and authority. You are only a leader because of the people that follow you. What happens then if the people who are following you are not being properly communicated to? How willing will they be to listen to you when they have no confidence in your authority? Your influence should be directed through communication to attain a specific goal.
If I can affect your actions, I am influencing you. The concept of influence strips away what we traditionally believe leadership to represent. It is not so much a matter of intelligence, strictness, looks and what not. Influence is more about working on the heart on the individual you want to influence. It is the sum total of actions, response and behavior in relation to your people. Influence is communicating who you are through the way you do things to positively affect the actions of others.
So how can we harness within ourselves the power to move from authority to influence?
- Build knowledge about people
As leaders, information is gold. More importantly, information about the people under our leadership is very important. Unfortunately, it is common to find that most leaders seclude themselves and have no idea about the people who work for them. Not only do they not care but the relevance of having a personal connection with their people is oblivious to them. Hear this: You cannot influence whom and what you do not know. Take a minute to ask yourself if you know these things about your employees:
- Which of your members are married? Do they have children?
- Is anyone enduring a personal crisis pertaining to their external relationship outside work?
- Name one thing your people find entertaining as a hobby.
- How are they making strides to develop personally?
- Build their personal brand
The people who work for us are representatives of our company; our brand. Without their own effort to develop their personal brands, they will eventually misrepresent us and become weak links in our business. A core part of having the ability to influence is being all to empower and improve the life of the next person. The human resource is the most essential investment that can be made in any business. Your power and authority should reflect in the type of people that work for you. In essence, you must help them with resources and make space for them to develop their personal brands. Encourage them to take up relevant opportunities. Give them the platform to speak up on things they are passionate about. Delegate responsibilities to them and nurture them by teaching them. In subtle ways, you will be influencing them to be the best versions of themselves and simultaneously delivering their best at work.
- Communicate through soft skills
As a High Performance and Personal Development Coach, I have spoken countless times on the power of soft skills. Soft skills are strong and key tools that help in management of crisis, building and maintaining trust, solving problems and influencing outcomes. In our quest to nurture the skill of influencing, we need to understand the pertinence of effective communication, empathy, decision-making and problem- solving. To lead is to be an example and your followers are always paying close attention to how you speak to others, how you make decisions and the way you care for those around you. All these are things that courses in short skills can teach. You do not need to have it all figured out. But the willingness to learn and teach is a very important part of your leadership that communicates to your followers that you are human and ready to learn.
- Consistently communicate their message
There is no influence without trust. Trust is earned when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and communicate consistently the message of who you are. Look deep within and ask yourself, “Who am I?” What do I stand for? What are the things I like and what are the things I dislike? Do I understand the vision of my company? What do I do daily to communicate it? These are relevant things about yourself that you communicate subtly in the way you do things. These are information picked up by people who look up to you and listen to you. Without trust, you cannot earn the commitment and creativity that people have to offer. Find the balance where you can offer guidance while being empathetic. Find the things about you and your brand that you can consistently communicate to earn trust.