Managing with Influence, Not Authority

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” – Angela Ahrendts (Senior Vice President, Apple)

The indisputable fact is that a team is the engine, the driving force of a project and business at large. If you have been recently appointed as a project leader, your first priority should be to influence your team to work harder, aim higher, and achieve more. As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a positive and welcoming workplace for your team where they can pour in their ideas, showcase their creativity and polish their skills all while striving to produce amazing outputs.

However, being a good leader is not an easy task. It requires a great deal of optimism, patience, and communication to be able to achieve the desired outcomes. Even more so, a great leader is the one who influences others rather than asserting his authority like a dictator.

“Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished” – Lisa Cash Hanson

An authoritative leader is coercive and commanding. Instead of trying to build a team, he focuses on accomplishing the goals without any consideration for his fellow workers or their ideas. Such neglect breeds feelings of hostility and resentment among the workers creating a toxic workplace environment. The employees lack motivation and creativity which affects the productivity of the organization in the long run. Therefore, such a leadership style is not only obstructive but also counterproductive.

According to statistics released by Harvard Business Review, a whopping 70% of employees are unhappy due to the negative work culture. That is a lot! Unhappy employees lead to unsatisfactory outputs. So the question arises, how can you be an influential leader for your team?

Let’s list down the do’s and the don’ts!

Things You Shouldn’t Do

The term ‘authority’ refers to the changing of behavior of others, which leads them to doing something they would not do otherwise. It is forceful and involuntary. Research suggests that teams stop responding to long term authoritative commands as the feelings of animosity start stirring up between the members.

Although authoritative leadership might prove effective in some situations where rapid decisions or prompt guidelines are required, to set deadlines, to provide structure to the team, and to get things done, such an approach should not be used very often and only when required.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams

Long Term Effects Of Authoritative Leadership

In a workplace where power and authority run the show, the outcome includes:


 – Poor quality of work

John Maxwell rightly said, “People’s capacity to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.” An authoritative leader does not pay heed to the ideas of his employees. He does not care about creativity or innovation. Such a leader imposes his ideas onto the members and dictates EVERYTHING. The team members are never given the opportunity to hone their skills or learn new things and eventually lose motivation to do better at work, which leads to unsatisfactory results. Such teams suffer from a severe lack of creativity as their ideas are neither welcomed nor appreciated. In the long run, this leads to a serious compromise in the quality of the work that they deliver.

 – Miscommunication

Statistics reveal that around 80% of work accidents occur due to the stress from a toxic work environment. When orders are passed down, a lot of miscommunication takes place, which further leads to unnecessary mistakes. An unapproachable leader means a higher scope for ambiguity and disengagement among the team members. The lower staff is mostly blamed for such mistakes and this causes resentment and high turnover.

 – Lack of Morale

An authoritative leader tries to assert his power through coercion and threats, such as those of losing your job, not getting a promotion, or public humiliation. He does not let his team members take part in making important decisions and lack the emotional intelligence to deal with people. Such attributes create a negative impact on the employees and lower their morale, thereby triggering bitter feelings.

Things Leaders SHOULD Do

“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” – Harry S. Truman

A great leader is one who influences his team and inspires others to do exactly what needs to be done. Such leaders are largely considered by their team members as mentors, guides, catalysts and teachers. The results of their influence lead to higher levels of creativity, innovation, retention and productivity within their teams. In order to be a great leader, you should:

 – Communicate Effectively

A good leader listens to his employees and appreciates their ideas and feedback. He provides clear guidelines and approves of discussions and inquiries. This decreases the chances of mistakes, feelings of resentment and extinguishes the fear that presenting an idea can lead to humiliation. How so? As humans, we feel a need to ‘connect’ and experience a sense of belonging. Leaders who communicate openly with their team build a strong foundation for connection, which brings about positive outcomes.

 – Appreciate

A simple appraisal goes a long way. Around 79% of employees quit jobs due to a lack of appreciation from their leaders. People like to be valued and applauded for the work they put in. As a good leader, you must appreciate the efforts of your team members. This encourages them to work harder and better.

 – Be approachable

An open-door policy means that a leader is approachable to his team. He is open to questions, ideas, and concerns of his employees. This minimizes a lack of communication and builds a cordial working atmosphere.

 – Break bread together

Celebrating your victories as a team plays a vital role in ensuring positive long-term outcomes as it boosts the bottom line. Kevin Kniffin, a researcher at Cornell University said that, “Giving credit to your team for victory builds a good work ethic and motivates them to do better in the future”.

– Train your peers, set clear guidelines & expectations

A leader is influential when he encourages his team to grow. As a leader, you should try to polish their skills and help them grow into capable leaders of tomorrow. While you are at it, you must also set clear guidelines and expectations for every single individual within your team. This way, it would be easier for them to set goals and fulfill your expectations while following the guidelines provided.

3 Important Lessons from One Minute Manager

The book ‘One Minute Manager’ by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnsons teaches us three important lessons to be an influential leader. These are:

 – One minute goals

A good leader notes down clear goals and guidelines for the project, all of which are readable in one minute.

 – One minute praising

It only takes a minute to appreciate someone for his efforts and a good leader must always praise his team members. This makes them feel valued and motivates them to do better.

 – One minute reprimands

Reprimanding your employees on their shortcomings is important. However, criticism should be positive and must be followed by encouragement.

Kenneth Blanchard further says,

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

A good leadership produces happier employees and happier employees produce better outcomes. Studies show they are:

 – 12% more productive

 – take 10 times fewer sick leaves

 – improve sales by up to 37%!

So if you are planning to take a leadership position anytime soon, just keep your team members happy so that they continue to perform to the best of their abilities.

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