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Can You Lead Without Using Your Place of Authority?

In my last blog (Can You Manage Work Without Managing People?), I explained the concept of how to manage the work stream, not the people, which then actually allows you freedom to Lead. It’s this latter statement I will expand on here.

A common fear I hear against the effectiveness of ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), or similar such concepts, centres on the misnomer that the loss of authority inherent in these processes actually leads to a lack of results. I also got private PMs on this concern. That somehow if a manager relinquishes an authoritarian grip over place and time controls, then their power to lead is diminished. Surely if you can’t punish against prescription on exactly where, when, what and how people do things then they will run around like headless chickens being lazy and taking the **** whenever they can?

Sure, they could, but this is therefore an argument on execution.

Maybe, for example, there are levers that as leaders we can still use to develop and motivate our teams? That building these skills without relying on “because I said so” and “them is the rules” will actually make you a better person and leader.

The good news is that from a position of personal experience and practice, I can confidently state that the latter is true. Obviously it does take effort and you have to upskill yourself, but people will reward you for your trust and actually the lazy crutches of authoritarian management make no one any better.

Below I have touched on what I believe are eight core methods of influencing your team without “ordering” them, that should go a long way to helping you move from Management into Leadership. This will enable you to realise the more collaborative, empowering and productive work environment that everyone cries out for.

Vision. People need to have something to believe in. Their objectives should take them on a journey to the goal, and with every achieved target they should see that they are getting closer to both personal and common dreams. When a leader lives and breathes the vision, employees will not be far behind.

Inspiration. Freedom empowers people. If handled correctly, this can be hugely inspirational and can act as a driver for people to go on to even greater heights. A leader should aim to show them that the impossible is possible – smashing their preconceived ideas of “how things are done” and allowing them to believe they can get there.

Motivation. As much as ROWE (or others) is about providing freedom of choices for results, it is also about providing the support and assistance to enable employees to get there. They are empowered to make things happen themselves, in the best way for them, but business is often difficult and they still need the moral, tactical and strategic support, and someone picking them up when they fall. An unfaltering belief in their ability and capability is enough to work miracles.

Responsibility. Trusting people with a task is difficult enough, but it’s the meddling that causes the friction and strain. You will find though that when employees are given true 100% responsibility for the delivery of a given task, they feel the pride of that trust which in turn leads to spectacular performance.

Accountability. With responsibility comes accountability. It is up to them to deliver, and there is nowhere to hide. This is the most powerful return on all that you are providing as a true leader and will provision the culture of achievement you need in a business.

Transparency. Leadership should be transparent and foster this culture throughout the business. This will feed the Trust which is crucial to all of this and mean that any Results that might fall short are known up front and can be dealt with. This leads nicely then into the following point.

Coaching. Employees may be left alone to make things happen, but without guidance, coaching, training, and the right tools they will never realise their full potential. If they know that there is a support framework to fall back on, they will take more risks, be more effective and develop faster which is good for all.

Empowerment. Optimal results come when you are not afraid to try and fail. The true leader is not afraid of telling his people not to be afraid. There will undoubtedly be short-term issues, but in the long term, this is the only way forward.

Leadership is a mind-set and not a position. All of these items are interlinked and must be delivered in unison to get the success you and your team deserve. Focus on these eight things, and your team or business will flourish.

If you find yourself spending your time putting out fires and managing people using your place of authority then its time to take a step back and re-engineer everything. By becoming a leader in your environment, all the other things will fall into place, and people will go out their way to not need to be managed.