How To Lead When You Have No Authority

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People like Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, and Mother Theresa didn’t develop the ability to inspire others once they had a platform; rather, they were given a platform because they inspired others.

I was first introduced to the concept of leading without authority back when I worked for a highly dysfunctional organization. I watched as major projects nose-dived into oblivion, everyone swirled in a whirlpool of angst and mistrust, and people always seemed to think that “someone else” was the root of their problems.

1. Build Trust: Trust Comes First

There is nothing more important than trust. You can have incredible talent, extraordinary credentials, and even say all the “right” things, but if people don’t trust you, they won’t follow you.

Trust is not an action or a resume, it is a feeling that other’s have about you. This feeling comes from two things: 1) a belief that you have their best interests at heart, and 2) a confidence that you have the ability to help them.

Some of the best ways to build this are to ask people for advice and listen to them (everyone wants to be heard), to take a personal interest in what is important to them (this validates them), and to always be genuine (this shows them you have no agenda).

Think of trust as the bridge that connects you with others; with it they will listen to you, but without it, they won’t.

2. Create Alignment: The Power of Communication

I find it surprising that in just about every organization you find people performing all kinds of activities, yet moving in different directions.

This happens because of a lack of communication. At some point, all of us are guilty of this for one reason or another.

Maybe we don’t approach our boss (or others) with issues because we feel like it will bother them or make us look incapable. Or perhaps we get tunnel vision on a project and fail to see (or know) what others are working on. Other times we’re just too busy to communicate more than we have to.

Whatever the case, our lack of communication is a missed opportunity.

If trust is the bridge that connects you with others, then communication is the vehicle. It enables you to align your actions and goals with those around you.

3. Cultivate Momentum: Take Action And Others Will Follow

Another thing I am often surprised by is how often people get a good idea or see how something can be done better, but don’t act on it.

They say they didn’t want to “rock the boat” or that they were unsure if they were allowed to do “this” or “that.”

More often than not, you should trust your instincts in these situations. If it seems like a good idea to you, then chances are it will seem like a good idea to others also.

I’ll say it again, whenever you are questioning whether or not you should act on something that you believe is a good idea, you should absolutely act.

Not only will your action be a catalyst for others to follow, it will also set your idea into motion.

The engine of all change is action. It is remarkable how simply acting on your ideas motivates others to get behind them.

4. Inspire Belief: Find The Greater Purpose

The last and I think most important way to lead through influence is to inspire belief. You do this by helping others find a greater purpose to their work.

In the military there is this a sense of duty above self. A loyalty to your comrades, your mission, and your country over your personal needs or goals.

We find this same virtue in firefighters, police officers, and even paramedics as they run into burning buildings or dangerous situations to take care of those in need.

The reason why these heroes — and that is certainly what they are — place mission over self is because they believe in what they do. They have a deep sense that their work is important and always strive to do their best at it.

Although the stakes are often much lower in the business world, you and I have the same ability to inspire this belief.

The reality is, everyone — from accountants, to software developers, to marketing professionals, etc. — wants to feel a sense of purpose (a sense of importance) to what they do.

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