Once upon a time in American business, corporations were structured around a very strict hierarchy...
This is still true to some extent, but times are changing rapidly inside U.S. businesses. The hierarchy is changing into more of a collaborative mentality.
More companies realize that they need to develop and encourage leadership and initiative within all levels to stay competitive.
In the past, leadership was a function of title; the boss was the leader. Now, people are asked to lead without the title or the authority to back it up.
Instead of hierarchy-based leadership, many professionals must learn to develop lateral leadership.
According to a blog by Jesse Lyn Stoner, “Leading without relying on authority is a higher evolutionary skill.” So, how does one influence without authority?
Consider the following scenario: You’ve been asked to lead a change initiative requiring many different departments’ input -- and involving colleagues you have no direct authority over. How do you ensure their full cooperation?
Let’s look at some of the main skills you’ll need to influence without authority. You’ll notice that these are all considered “soft skills.”
Networking: Create and cultivate relationships with the key influencers in your company and industry. This is something that should be ongoing throughout your career, so that no matter what scenario arises, you will have access to those who can assist you in getting the job done. If you are not a natural networker, focus on creating relationships with those who are natural networkers.
Collaboration: Are you someone who gets along well with others? Do you know how to build coalitions? Ask others for their opinions, have open discussions, and really listen to other points of view. With lateral leadership, many heads are better than one. By genuinely including others instead of just “telling them what to do,” you will build trust.
Transparency: When others raise objections or ask why certain decisions were made, an open, transparent response without defensiveness will go a long way. Hidden agendas and attempts to manipulate or deceive can be felt and will usually be resisted.
Influencing without authority is too large a subject for one blog. So, in my next post I'll discuss how to influence others even if no one has assigned you any kind of a leadership task.