How to Lead Organizational Change – Authority Vs Influence

It is imperative that every organization wants to move on and on and on….. and to grow faster and forever. For that they need to constantly innovate and improve on their product or services to make themselves relevant to their customers and with time. Leading organizational change to foster constant innovation and growth is tough as you have to bring every employee to a page where they understand your vision and be with you by all means. As a leader, you’ve got two ways to bring organizational change that really makes significant impact; by Authority or by Influence. (Unless you have moved to Holacracy leadership culture, you’ll have to set hierarchy to pass on your message till the front-most-line of workflow).
With my seven 7 years of experience in dealing with people, I’ve tried to give more clarity on these two traits here. You are always welcome to argue on it through email or on twitter @iPankajS

According to Oxford Dictionary
Authority – the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience
Influence – the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Authority means power to give orders. Autocratic leadership or may be you can call it “dictatorship,” is a form of leadership that centralizes the power in a unit and forces others to follow. I heard such leaders asking their subordinates to follow them and not to use their brain to think – “Do as I say; to think, its not your job”. If you really think to rule the planet by power & authority, your decay starts from today and you should start counting your half-life everyday.

I’ve always acted as a change agent through-out my work life and trust me, its been a super amazing experience. In early days of my career, I used to think…If only I had the authority to make the changes happen, it would be easy for me to implement changes and bring desired results. Some misconceived notion had mounted my thought processes and I used to think that if I say anything with authority, it is easy to get it done. Unfortunately, it didn’t. 🙂

As the time passed, I progressed to the position that gave me authority. I got happy that now I don’t have to convince people to buy in my ideas and will order them to get things done. I kept experimenting with different models of leadership and concluded with democratic leadership as the best form of leadership. It allowed me to bring best out of my great team members as I included them into the decision making process. Its called WORKING TOGETHER.

Undoubtedly, authority brings immediate change as result but it decays with double the speed. Passing marching orders will let your troops move in the said direction, but they never know why they are doing this. They won’t give their 100%.

Organizational change is tough. I’ve learnt upto a greater extent from my mentors, superiors & experiences about what is needed to help the critical mass move from current state to the desired state with sustainable growth pace. I developed a skill set to connect with people, built their trust and growth their confidence, unleash their passion and move with a shared vision to achieve the clearly set goal. And all of them don’t come overnight. People are habitual and you’ve to inculcate it in their veins. It takes a lot of time to be with the people and work with them collaboratively. The ability to redefine the vision as you keep getting insights from your members, leading by example, building long lasting relationship and earning respect are few traits that you should always look for as a leader within you. And this is what influence is.

As a leader, you’ve got to be with them, put the problem with them, share the ideas and let them think about the solution. If they are not able to think, its your responsibility to help them bringing out their thought process. Help them in finding the solution to the problem, even if you know the solution, let it come from them. Then freeze actionable, delegate responsibility and quantify outcome to be reviewed on the review date. You’ll see the magic of democratic leadership. Your team members will bring desired results better than you could think of. They would be more happy and would be trained for future. During the process, they’d learn on “how to think and derive solution” and how to implement the changes. And that’s what your role is all about.
Having influence with others does not only make you a fantastic change agent, it also makes you an fantastic colleague.

Over to you

I hope this thought of Authority and Influence in leadership holds some insights or ideas for you as you build out your own strategies to lead a team/group. I’d love to expand on anything here—and hear from you on any thoughts that come up.

What are you working on this month on developing leadership accumen?

Do any idea or strategies stand out here for you?

It’d be amazing to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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