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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Modern leadership

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Leading Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration
Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career
Keith Ferrazzi
Noel Weyrich
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

Usually, when we think about leadership, we think of authority and more you have of that, the easier it gets. Sad news, those days are over and that’s not how it works anymore, all that’s needed is the development of mutually beneficial relationships so that one can begin to lead change, even when you don’t have authority.

Let’s picture a scenario in which you, as a Human Resources Director, have been given the task of introducing a new bonus pay system across your organization/team company. You instruct your HR team to implement the new system, but before long, a problem gets in the way: the Sales Director doesn’t like the idea and has decided to set up their own independent bonus pay program for his department. So even though you as an HR director might have effective control over your own team, its all impossible to achieve the goal of a company-wide rollout. The first instinctive response might be going to your own boss/coach and complaining that you don’t have enough control over the situation to achieve your objective. After all, you have no authority over the sales team. You cannot tell the Sales Director what to do, and without their cooperation, implementing the new bonus system is a no-go. The quick answer to this issue here is: treating the Sales Director as a friend, rather than as an adversary who can be bested


Going through that situation of being keen on taking on a leadership position, but your supervisors might not think you’re ready yet isn’t much of an original experience, lots if not most have been there. It goes like this; your boss might say that you haven’t been with the organization long enough, or that you don’t yet have the skills to be a manager. In this case, the only solution is: Start leading anyway, even without authority.

To be more direct and specific, look for a problem in your team/workplace/association that no one is currently addressing, and that’s negatively affecting people’s ability to work effectively. Once you’ve identified such a problem, you can be the one to step up and solve it. Of course, this can sound like a daunting prospect. But if you’re trying to lead without authority, you shouldn’t start by confronting people about their wrongdoing. The wise way to do it is to begin by simply getting to know them so that they can start to trust you. So if you’re looking to skip the queue when it comes to leadership roles, start proving to whoever is in charge that you can take the initiative, solve problems, and lead people in your workplace toward positive change.


Can we provide leadership to someone you don’t care about? Author Keith Ferrazzi believes that we can’t. To be a great leader, either with or without authority, you need to care about those on your team.

If the people you’re seeking to lead think you don’t care about their feelings, their careers, or their interests, then they won’t trust you. This lack of trust is a major stumbling block, because trust is the bedrock of meaningful relationships.

Ferrazzi talks more in depth about this case in their book Leading Without Authority.  It started by them trying to establish a relationship with a potential investor in the business, they looked for ways to be generous toward him, right from the start. During their very first meeting, the author asked him if he would like an introduction to any of his business contacts. When the investor declined this offer, the author changed tack, and instead offered to help the investor’s college-age children find internships. Finally, the author offered to pay for the investor to have a session with a psychotherapist when he learned that he’d just gone through a difficult divorce! Incredibly, the investor took him up on it. Showing this level of generosity to a near-stranger might sound unusual, but it’s crucial to showing the other person that you care. As long as your offer of help is genuine, and you sincerely want a long-term relationship, then it never hurts to be immediately generous.

Researches have shown that “givers”, those who are generous with their resources and time without expecting anything in return, tend to be among the most successful people in any chosen profession. And to be honest this is no surprise. After all, givers make us feel valued. We leave a meeting with givers feeling touched and motivated, and their care and generosity inspire trust and loyalty in everyone they meet. So, before you start trying to manage those around you, think instead about how you can serve their needs. By showing your team mates, clients, or potential investors how much you care, you’ll gain their permission to lead, even when you don’t have authority.

Is feedback really that important?

As a team member, I used to believe that it was my coach’s job to go after everyone and give them feedback. I did assume it was her main job, not mine. This is quite common actually, for instance at a workplace, a person might notice that their coworker could improve her performance, they might shrug, and think it’s not their place to tell her where she’s going wrong. Well, because a fundamental tenet of leading without authority is coaching your colleagues and offering them feedback, this might need a second thought.

It might seem unusual to give one’s coworkers coaching and performance feedback, in some environments, but it is the norm. If you feel uncomfortable offering your team mates honest feedback on their performance and competencies, then ask yourself where this discomfort is originating. Is it simply that you’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings? If so, then don’t let this fear hold you back. After all, in your personal life, you probably have plenty of experience giving people valuable feedback in a sensitive way. For example, offering advice and guidance is often a big part of being a parent, or being a good friend. So why should you hold back in the workplace when you notice a coworker could do with some feedback!

The truth is that we often don’t offer our coworkers candid feedback because we don’t want to risk getting too involved or create tensions by upsetting them. Instead, we prefer to play it safe and stay on the person’s good side, even if we can see that they’d really benefit from someone being honest with them. We’d rather just be nice. However in some cases, this niceness can turn into manipulative insincerity, and it doesn’t come from a good place. Manipulative insincerity might be an indicator that you don’t have enough care about the person, or their career, to be frank with her. So what you need to start doing is braving the consequences and telling the person what you really think. That being said, before you engage in this habit, you should ask for the person’s permission to give feedback. Because while it’s often helpful to receive performance feedback, your teammate might not want to hear it. That’s why you have to ask their consent whether it would be okay if you gave them your thoughts, and set a specific time and place to sit down to talk.


Research shows that when people are in a good mood or feel good about themselves, they instantly become more productive and better at solving problems. For instance, one study found that, when doctors were given a small gift of candy right before they consulted with a patient, they made faster and more accurate diagnoses than doctors who had not been given a gift. This just goes to show that even the smallest tokens of appreciation can enhance job performance.

Offering your teammates praise is an excellent way to put them in a great mood and boost their performance. But it’s crucial to make sure that we are offering this praise in a way the recipients will appreciate. While many people love nothing more than being celebrated in front of others, some might find it deeply uncomfortable to be at the center of attention. In that case where we’re trying to praise an introvert, it is wiser to go with a written note or even email.


Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career. L, Ruettimann. 2022. Henry Holt.

Leading Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration. K, Ferazzi. N, Weyrich. Currency. May 2020.

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