Recently I participated in a corporate training aiming on influencing teams for high performance. We were taught several aspects of leaderships that play a key role in influencing an individual. What caught my attention was the ability of a leader to influence without an authority.

I mean, traditional leadership success stories have always been of individuals who had significant authority in their role who would wave a wand and get things done, but in the current age of collaborative environments, can someone still do so without any given authority?

Let’s understand this with an example.

Sarah worked for a large organization for over 12 years when she decided to quit. She has a good 20 years of corporate experience and has been an asset in all the three companies she worked for. So when she decided to venture into entrepreneurship during the last lockdown, her company was reluctant to let her go. Not only was Sarah good at her work, she was also a great team-mate. Yet, Sarah insisted she be relieved, only to be let go by the company on the condition that she stays connected as a consultant. For the past few months, Sarah visits the old company often and is surprised to see how the young recruits, along with her former colleagues, greet her fondly. She is able to provide valuable insights to the company even without being an employee anymore. I find this an interesting situation where you are able to influence without authority. There must be something wonderful about Sarah that she is able to influence so many people.

My search for reasons how some people manage to influence others even while they do not hold any authority led me to believe that authority/position is just a non-essential requisite when it comes to human connections. Some myths got busted along the way:

  • That one needs to hold a higher position to get work from others
  • That people working under you listen and deliver whatever you tell them if you wield some authority over them (Most of us have experienced that the employees wouldn’t budge an inch even when told by the boss in specific cases)
  • That position matters when it comes to displaying leadership

In my observation over a couple of decades of my work experience, I have crossed all the above three myths with a resounding NO. If a person in authority cannot wield any influence unless he proves his mettle, imagine how it will be for someone who holds no authority.

In my early days in the job, my reputation as the go-to guy in matters pertaining to troubled projects aspects had spread far and wide. I frequently got calls from across different departments to assist in their troubled projects which I gladly did. The more I helped solve these problems, the more I was beckoned, though I was almost half the age than many of the seniors. Read more