Sometimes the English language can’t handle the nuance we expect it to perform. A single word can have different meanings, and unless we are careful to convey only what we want to say, words can be misunderstood.
In the world of corporate leadership, one of the most commonly misunderstood words is “authority”. Typically, when people say “Authority”, they are talking about a person. A CEO or someone in management would be an authority as far as their employees are concerned. This is the sense we use the word when we say that someone has “a problem with authority”.
In this sense of the word, authority is simply symbolic. It’s a mantle placed on people who have certain positions in business, society, government, and various institutions. Within corporate structure, people are obliged to follow the leadership of those in authority, whether they like it or not. This can create friction in the workplace if an individual is not respected to the degree their position of authority would require. This is often because there is something lacking authority-wise, but in another sense of the word.
Authority As Something Innate
If we look through the history of business at people with great leadership skills, excellent ideas, and a wealth of experience, these people can be said to have authority, whether or not they are in a position of authority at any given time.
Authority is an intangible quality that some people have as a result of their personality, their experience, their perceived excellence, or any combination of these or other factors. Authority in this sense of the word is not something that is formally conferred upon an individual, it’s something that is recognized by the other people in the organization. This isn’t a quality that is often put into words, but it’s a great asset to have in any kind of organization.
Cultivating Innate Authority
When people take part in leadership training, it is usually in an effort to cultivate innate authority. Simple being in charge of people doesn’t mean that they will automatically be led effectively. It’s important for people in positions of authority to understand that their skills and methods might not produce the best results. Fortunately, there are reliable ways to improve matters.
- Experience. When leaders have a wide array of experience, they have valuable knowledge and are more likely to earn respect in the workplace. Business people like Steven Sugarman have incredible experience in various fields which become an asset in any corporate body. With experience also comes confidence. When an individual understands their own competence, they will be much more likely to project confidence and inspire admiration.
- Communication Skills. Even highly qualified people struggle with communication, and this can severely impair their ability to project authority and effectively lead. Communication takes practice, and is a skill distinct from business acumen. Even those with the greatest qualifications and knowledge will not be recognized as people of authority without the ability to direct people through words and action.
- Insight. People with real authority seem able to read situations accurately, understand motivations and emotions, and act in the best interests of those following them whenever possible. People who struggle with these skills will seem out of touch or distracted, both characteristics which will impede their ability to lead with authority.
Authority may be hard to put your finger on, but we tend to know it when we see it. Becoming more positively authoritative is a great skill to foster in oneself or in those who manage on your behalf. With work and by paying attention to oneself, those who follow will be more likely to follow well because of the authority perceived in you.