Authority is a crucial concept in management because, without it, managers will be unable to do their work properly and effectively. If I am in a managerial position, and the members of the team I am supposed to manage seem to be doing fine without me and my contribution, this is an inappropriate situation. When the control and power that I need to exercise according to my responsibilities need to be applied to the team, I may find myself unable to demonstrate good management unless I establish my authority. To do so, I need to address the concepts of formal and informal authority, demonstrate good skills, show passion for the organization, be confident, and increase employee engagement.
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First of all, it should be recognized that authority can be formal and informal (“Authority vs leadership,” n.d.). The former refers to one’s position, title, and official responsibilities. If one is a manager, his or her subordinates will be supposed to respect the person for occupying a high position. However, as Whitehurst (2015) notices, “this is the lowest form of respect” (para. 2) because it is solely based on an official title. Instead, successful leaders should strive for building informal authority; i.e., a type of authority based on employees’ respect to a leader’s achievements and expertise rather than position. The benefit of informal authority is that one who has it may expect more effort from the employees.
To achieve informal authority, it is primarily necessary to demonstrate good knowledge and skills. Forbes Coaches Council (2016) suggests that the “No. 1 way in which business owners generate respect is through understanding and generating solutions through technology” (para. 4). Therefore, it is important for me to show my team the way I can approach identified business problems with the use of modern technology-based tools and techniques. If I prove to be a good problem-solver capable of providing effective and efficient solutions based on innovative approaches, this will be the most important factor in building informal authority among my team members. Also, employees should see me make personal contributions to the development of action plans and to the achievement of actual positive outcomes of our joint efforts.
Apart from a rather obvious idea that I should show good work to improve my authority, there are also more advanced techniques that I can use. First, it is recommended by Whitehurst (2015) to show passion for the organizational goals, which my team members and I are pursuing together, in order to earn the respect of the team. Certainly, I am not supposed to imitate such passion, but I should only stress it if I actually have it (if I do not, perhaps being in a managerial position in the organization is not the best idea). The rationale for using this technique is that people are more likely to follow a passionate leader; from this perspective, leaders’ motivation invites employees’ motivation.
The second technique that can be used to earn respect and improve authority is the demonstration of confidence. Whitehurst (2015) stresses that being confident in front of those who report to you is as important as being confident in front of those you report to although the importance of the former type is often overlooked. Similar to the demonstration of passion, the demonstration of confidence should not be strained or forced. Instead, confidence should come from choosing credible sources and relying on properly analyzed data in the decision-making process (Forbes Coaches Council, 2016). If I do my job properly and make maximum efforts, I will naturally feel confident, and it will be apparently beneficial for me to openly show this confidence.
Finally, there is the technique of increasing my team members’ engagement. If I have difficulties with getting them together, to call a meeting and tell all of them what exactly to do will not be a successful strategy (Whitehurst, 2015). Instead, I should not be afraid, ashamed, or reluctant to ask them for assistance. Employees are more likely to attend a meeting if they are invited to it by someone who wants to hear their opinions instead of ordered to attend by their manager. Increased engagement can have many benefits; for example, the employees will feel more motivated and more responsible for the quality of their work, and their feedback will possibly help me improve certain working processes and practices. However, in the addressed context, the main benefit will be the improvement of my image of a leader among my team members.
To gain informal authority, I need to demonstrate excellent problem-solving- and technology-related skills, passion for the organizational purposes, confidence in my decision making, and readiness and willingness to listen to what my team members have to say and to consider it in my managerial work. The team already displays good performance, and it can be expected that proper leadership will lead to even better outcomes. If I earn informal authority, I will be able not only to exercise my control more effectively but also to ensure that the team members make larger contributions to the quality of their work than they would if their manager had formal authority and formal respect only.
Authority vs leadership. (n.d.). Web.
Forbes Coaches Council. (2016). How to establish authority positioning and develop leadership influence. Forbes. Web.
Whitehurst, J. (2015). How to earn respect as a leader. Harvard Business Review. Web.