Global Leadership Blog
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Five Strategies to Help You Manage Well Without Authority

Sandra came to me with questions about a new project she had been assigned to lead. She would be responsible for her teams’ performance for the new initiative but was concerned about how to keep the individual members motivated since they would not be reporting to her directly. How could she manage well without authority?

“I’m not responsible for their careers,” she explained. “I’m not responsible for their performances beyond the project outcomes, so I don’t have the usual fears or promises of promotions as motivators. I’m not sure how to make this work,” she stated.

The situation my client described is a typical scenario. An increasing number of companies today use the matrix model of management, managing employees with more than one reporting line, or across business groups. Under these circumstances, team leads are responsible for team performance in the project outcomes but have no other authority. As in Sandra’s situation, the inherent challenge is to engage and motivate employees who report to someone else.

As I say in my book, “The New Global Manager,” you must accomplish your mission through the group. People say this in many different ways. They say you must “make your numbers” or “hit your targets” or “achieve your goals.” However you describe it, you must do it through your team. So, you need to help the people who are on your team grow and succeed. Great managers have always been coaches and mentors. They’re always looking for ways to help their team members do better in their present job and prepare them for their next move.

‘Leadership without authority’ is an emerging concept gaining traction in social, academic and business circles,” writes Russ Banham. “In fact, type those three words into Google, and more than 6.5 million results pop up. A shelf of books has been written on the subject, and courses are even being taught to achieve its graces. Not only that but leading without authority has been espoused by such diverse organizations as the American Chemical Society and the National Center for Cultural Competence,” he adds.

How do you lead without authority?

The goal of leadership without authority is to get others to willingly cooperate and engage, rather than following directives because you’re the boss,” writes Carol Kinsey Goman. “This new style of leadership is a blending of personal and interpersonal skills that form the basis of a leader’s ability to impact, influence, and inspire others.”

As I explained to Sandra, managing well without authority is entirely possible–and people do it all the time these days. We all have certain levels of influence in our work. Some have the influence that ties to their position; some have authority based on their expertise or resources. And everyone can develop influence by building strong relationships. In situations like Sandra’s, relationships are central to the success of her project. I gave Sandra the following five strategies to help her manage her project team.

Five strategies to help you manage without authority

1. First of all, you need to understand what motivates the team. What is each team member’s motivation for being successful? One may be driven by the promise of earning more money, while another is excited to be able to make contributions. Are your team members motivations intrinsic, meaning that he or she will take action because it is personally rewarding, or are they extrinsic? “Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment,” writes Kendra Cherry.

2. Create visibility for your team. Talk to the managers who are responsible for your team members’ careers about what they’re doing. Find ways to support and praise the team publicly. Advocate for them and help create visibility company-wide.

3. Hold discussions with the team at the outset. Set the expectations about communication channels; how you will communicate with each other and how the team is expected to communicate with you. Explain what hours you expect they will be available and what channels they will use to reach you. Be specific about the kind of information you expect to receive and how frequently you anticipate hearing from them. Make it clear that you are very interested in keeping communication open at all times.

4. Define the roles and responsibilities for your team. Take the time to represent what you expect from each of them clearly, and tie those expectations into the motivators you have determined will be effective for each person. Establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities lessen the chances of duplication of effort or frustration between the various people you are managing on the project.

5. From the beginning, help the team understand that you’re willing to support their image and brand. Be transparent. Let them know that you will foster, network and generally be supportive of them, so they know that they’re not working in an isolated bubble. Remind them that just because they aren’t reporting to their manager for this project doesn’t mean there isn’t company-wide visibility, organizational visibility and their reputation at stake. Help them understand that their behavior and their performance in this project can and will impact them positively or negatively in the larger company setting.

Sandra took these strategies into her work on the new project and was able to build significant relationships with each of her team members. She reported that they were nearing completion and had every expectation of hitting most of the project expectations successfully. She was also pleased to report that she had already been instrumental in helping further several of her team members’ career goals, and she felt very good about that.

Would you like a summary of my management rules in a pdf format? Join my online global leadership community.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson

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