Authority comes when we are ready to lead and ready to deliver for others
Recently I was talking with a colleague in a mentoring conversation. This individual was describing her surprise that she was being asked to lead a piece of collaborative work that she had initiated. A group that she had brought together were deferring to her authority. Because she had convened the group, chosen the individuals and had the compelling vision for the work, the group were ready to follow. It was an adjustment for someone who saw themselves as simply as the coordinator to realise that they had earned the authority to lead others more senior.
At the heart of this moment, is a key insight. The magic of authority is this – you have the authority because others judge you ready. Others chose to follow because they trust in your vision, insight, capabilities, experience or approach. Their trust and their followership means that you are ready to lead, whether you know that yet or not.
You can be thrust into a rank you are unfit to hold or where you are unsuitable to deliver on the expectations of the position. We have all experienced the terror of those first moments of a new and challenging role. Rank is a gift and some times it is bestowed in error.
Authority doesn’t work that way. Unlike rank, it doesn’t come as a gift from others. Authority is earned. If you have authority, you are ready to exercise it.
So next time you are wondering how you ended up in charge, remember that you earned it. Go show your new followers that their instincts are right.
That leadership is the least that they expect from you.