Authority is not leadership
8 November 2021
Founders – would the people in your business still follow you if you didn’t have a title?
At the launch of our business, we had control over everything in our business because we were the only ones. So we had the authority over virtually every decision (and unfortunately, responsibility for all of them too).
As our businesses grew, we hired people to help us with all that work, and now we have authority over them as well.
But having authority doesn’t lead to productivity, happiness, or reaching our business goals or our employee’s goals. While we can offer our money for their time, we can’t order them to be engaged, creative or cooperative.
Some founders have dealt with unproductive or uncooperative employees with, “They better do their damn jobs or I’ll find someone who will.”
How well has that strategy worked? Has there ever been an instance in which any version of “because I said so” leads to success? (Parents know this well.). Isn’t that merely exercising authority?
True leaders – by virtue of how they behave, serve and sacrifice – get people not only to perform, but to feel happier, safer, more engaged and bring their best efforts to the business. A true leader serves the people he or she works with, looks out for their well-being, sacrifices for them, and hopefully comes with some well-earned wisdom. Leading involves having authority and responsibility, but leading is not defined by having authority. People naturally feel safe and connected to true leaders, and it is natural that employees follow and support them.
The antithesis to a leader is a “boss” – someone who has only authority – the ability to control or influence other people’s time, duties and pay. A boss has the right within the organization to give orders, hand out carrots and beat with a stick.
But being a boss is not the same thing as being a leader. Employees don’t naturally follow or connect with bosses, nor do the feel safe or happy. Why would they?
For our businesses as well as our employees to truly succeed, we must transition from launching to leading our business, and learn and practice a completely different set of skills than we used at launch.
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