Authority Erodes, but Influence Lasts Forever


Authority Erodes, but Influence Lasts Forever

Unlocking value in your organization will require leadership. Most who are asked to drive change will seek the authority to do so. Sometimes, the well-intended sponsor of the needed change will try to transfer his or her authority to the change agent.

“If Bill asks you to do something during this process, it’s just like me asking,” declares the well-meaning vice president.


Authority Erodes

Most U.S. presidents ride into the first days of office with a high approval rating. Inevitably, they leave office with much lower ratings, even after being reelected to a second term. Certainly many factors contribute to this phenomenon, but one is the fact that authority erodes.

Authority is defined as the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. It is so enticing when tasked with driving change to believe the right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience will help you make it happen. It is the thought behind people who say, “If only I were in charge” or “If I were the boss, I would make it happen.”

The problem is that over time, those you are tying to change grow weary of authority. Wrong decisions or unpopular actions will lead to passive-aggressive behavior and dissention.

The other problem with authority is that it requires an army. A dictator is able to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience because he has an army backing him. Take away the military force and he has no power. The soldiers in a dictator’s army follow his orders and decisions because it is their job and they are paid. This is true in business as well. A change agent relying on authority will require an army of solders to enforce his change.  The solders will do endless audits for compliance and write hundreds of performance reviews to sustain the changes.


Influence Lasts Forever

We all can recall someone who had a great influence on our lives—a parent, teacher, public figure, or just someone we encountered in everyday life. This person showed an interest in you, had a vision of the future, or was simply a wonderful role model whose traits you wanted to emulate.

The person engaged your mind and made you think about the future and what you needed to become. Even if the role model had no real authority over you, he or she certainly changed your direction and possibly helped set you on the path to what you have accomplished and what you have become. In other words, this person had great influence on your life.

Change agents who are able to influence those they are trying to change have a much greater chance of sustainable improvement that exceeds their expectations. When people are influenced by a vision and believe in a path and the need for improvement, it is far more powerful than authority.

Martin Luther King had an army of people helping him. Not many were paid.

Help lead the change in your organization through influence. Show an interest in people, have a vision of the future, or simply be a wonderful role model whose traits others will want to emulate. Engage minds and make people think about the future and what they need to become.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” now available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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