7 Ways to Lead People You Have No Formal Authority Over

Guest Blogger - Charles Cook

Management isn’t so “clean cut” any more. Employees can work for multiple supervisors depending on the task, and this is not made any simpler with the growing trend of hiring outsourced and contractual employees.

In this world of “matrix” management, you may very well be expected to lead people you have no formal authority over. But the question is—how?

Well, before getting to the “how,” you have to note two very important things about leadership.

  • First, you should know that with or without a formal authority, a significant slice of leadership is about influence. Many people we have considered to be great leaders have actually been persons of great influence. We seem to be motivated to be like the people who greatly influence us. Those leaders seek opportunities, change the rules, and inspire achievement.
  • Secondly, as a leader—like it or not—there are things we cannot do alone. (Just think how would it look if you held a conference by for yourself!) Once you truly accept this fact, you will understand that there are people around you who you will have to influence for them to help you accomplish your goals. You can do this by understanding the relationship between you and them and between them and others.
    If there are five people on a board (like a Commissioner’s Court or Utility District Board), there are 10 relationships on that board to keep track of. (As in, all the relationships in playnot just yours and theirs.) As the size of the group grows, so does the complexity of influencing the relationship, and it becomes extremely important for us to influence these relationships if we are to be successful.

Now that you know the importance of influencing and collaborating, you can implement the ways to lead people you have no formal authority over:

  1. Recognize the strength of others
  2. Be compassionate but professional
  3. Take quick actions
  4. Make connections and help others provide meaning to their work
  5. Provide direction without taking over
  6. Invite feedback
  7. Lay groundwork for future successes

Those who master these skills are often called shrewd, charismatic, politically astute, or just plain persuasive as they master (influence) organizational politics.

Actively find ways to work these seven tips into your employee interactions. They sound easy to do, but it takes a lot of practice to perfect.

What are some examples of how you lead those who aren’t formally under your authority?

One response

  1. Excellent article. I totally agree with the 7 points you mentioned. It’s great if it all works perfectly. I have a junior colleague who I have never managed to get onboard though. Reporting lines for the junior is through the discipline’s line department while I, as a contractor, am more a technical lead for our project. Business deadlines need to be met and I have found myself unsuccessfully trying to get my peer to help me with tasks. Demands from other parts of the business are always seen as the priority. There is neither measure nor credits to be rewarded if she helps me with a job. End result, I get penalised for not being able to deliver on time. I do acknowledge that I cannot do things alone.

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