Exercising authority isn’t leading

April 1, 2015 by Joshua
in Leadership

Anyone can tell someone “Do this or you’ll lose your job” and the person will do it if you have the authority to fire them.

I don’t call that leading.

Some people see positions in hierarchies and organization charts more than they see the people in those positions. If you treat them like people first and positions in charts, you have a better chance of influencing them. If you see them as positions in charts, you have a better chance of dehumanizing them, undermining the humanity of your relationship, and feeling dissociated. Even miserable. Certainly not fun.

You develop skills in what you practice and exercise. The more you practice and exercise authority, the more skilled you get at it and the more authoritarian you become.

Exercising authority has its place. It’s important in management. I consider it the leadership tool of last resort. That is, if you have any other tool to lead with, using it will work more effectively. Using authority leads people to undermine you.

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