The 5 Laws Of Leading Without Authority

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The reality is that organisational structures today are in a constant state of flux. With matrixed and flatter structures being the norm, the opportunities to be promoted ‘up the corporate ladder’ are fewer than ever. 

Consequently, many aspiring leaders who want to develop their leadership skills, business knowledge and broader expertise, find themselves leading different projects as a way to gain experience while demonstrating their potential. 

For some, the downside is that these ‘leadership’ opportunities come with a title that carries minimal positional authority.  

Leading without authority is one of the most valuable skills you can learn today. From our experience working with organisations over the last 30 years, we have a wealth of expertise as to what works and what doesn’t in these situations.  

So how do you lead without a title? 

If you are ‘up’ for the challenge, here are five laws of leading without authority guaranteed to work. 

1. See Yourself As A Leader 

Henry Ford is famous for saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psych Cybernetics, was a plastic surgeon. He discovered that no matter how skilled he was as a plastic surgeon, it was what his patients believed about how they looked that determined the success of the surgery and how they lived their life afterwards. 

What you believe about yourself has the power to change your reality. When you think and believe youre a leader, youll act like one.

2. Build Trusting Relationships 

Title or no title, people follow whom they trust and believe. Here’s a different kind of example for you.  

Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish girl who decided one Friday morning last August to 
take the day out of school to sit in front of the Swedish parliament building and protest about climate change. At the time, she cut a lonely and solitary figure with her hand-painted banner. 

Fast forward eight months and Greta is admired across the globe, having delivered an emotional speech to EU leaders and inspired students around the world to join her protest.  

On the 15th March 2019, students in towns and cities across the UK protested for a third time to demand action on climate change.  

When meeting with political leaders and billionaires at the World Economic Forum in Davos, she said: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.

Here is a young woman, who can inspire and create trust with those who follow her and has exceptional influencing skills.  

At the time Greta was 16, and I sense with minimal training and coaching. 

So, imagine the level of trust your current experience could communicate with the people you work with. If Greta made it happen, so can you. It’s a case of working out how. 

3. Build Your Network

A friend once said to me, “Your network equals your net worth”. 

You may be thinking this only applies to entrepreneurs, but I disagree. When you are leading a project, there is no way that you will be able to negotiate your path through all the obstacles you are likely to face, alone. 

However, the more extensive your network and connections inside and outside the business, the more you can tap into what expertise you need to support the project team. 

4. Be Solution Focused

“Energy flows where attention goes.

Have you ever noticed that when you are being negative and complaining about what is going wrong at work or with life in general that things seem to keep happening and adding fuel to the negative fire?

Conversely, when things are going well, more opportunities come your way, and you feel invincible! 

Logically then it’s key to focus on what you want to happen rather than what you don’t. Therefore
it’s critical to remember when you are overcoming hurdle after hurdle to stay focused on solutions and how you move forward. 

Solving problems are the sign of a great leader and, position or no position, people listen and follow problem solvers. 

Finally, it is ok to feel annoyed and frustrated at times. The point is not to allow yourself to dwell on the problem but to shift yourself quickly to being solution focussed.

5. Create Momentum  

If you have an idea and believe in it, take action. It will set your plan in motion and be a catalyst for others to get behind it and follow you and momentum builds. 

Think about great action takers you have worked with in the past. 

Did you feel inspired, excited and passionate about getting involved and following them? I suspect the answer is yes. 

Why? Because it’s human nature. 

People flock to action takers and want to join in and be part of the process. This then presents you with an opportunity to build on your original idea as others add their suggestions too. 

As everyone works together, the magic happens as momentum builds.


While opportunities for development in flatter structured organisations may not at first be as appealing, I would argue that the opportunity is even greater. If you can lead and influence a team that you don’t have authority over to success, it will be a launch pad to your future success
as a ‘formal’ leader.  


Rachel Hewitt-Hall

About Excel Communications  

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