Closing the Gap between Authority and Power
“George Carlin once said, “I have as much authority as the Pope. I just don’t have as many people who believe it”
This started me thinking about what authority and power in organizations really mean. Some people believe these words are synonymous. Well, perhaps, but I’m more inclined to believe that authority and power, while linked, are two different things.
For instance, it is possible for you to have authority without power if you are a newly appointed manager. People reporting to you will likely have little or no experience with you as a leader. As such, they may be reticent to follow your directives. Your authority only carries real power when you have earned their trust and respect and when they can see merit in the direction you want to take them. In short, the power kicks in when they give it to you.
Conversely, it is possible to have power without authority when as a well informed, competent and reliable team member, people seek out your advice and guidance. While you may not have the authority to make certain decisions on your own, you influence other team members who have come to respect your judgment and are eager to follow your lead.
Of course, as George Carlin so succinctly reminds us, the challenge is to optimize on the authority we are given by persuading others to not only believe it but also endorse and respect it. When we have accomplished that, then words like authority and power become more easily interchangeable.
So how does one go about closing the gap between authority and power? Well, here are some thoughts about that: ….”