To Create Change, Leadership Is More Important Than Authority
“Aspiring junior executives dream of climbing the ladder to gain more authority. Then they can make things happen and create the change that they believe in. Senior executives, on the other hand, are often frustrated by how little power they actually have.
The problem is that, while authority can compel action, it does little to inspire belief. It’s not enough to get people to do what you want, they also have to want what you want — or any change is bound to be short lived.
That’s why change management efforts commonly fail. All too often, they are designed to carry out initiatives that come from the top. When you get right down to it, that’s really the just same thing as telling people to do what you want, albeit in slightly more artful way. To make change really happen, it doesn’t need to be managed, but empowered. That’s the difference between authority and leadership. …
We tend to overestimate the power of influence. It always seems that if we had a little bit more authority or had more data to back us up or were able to make our case more forcefully, we could drive our ideas forward. …
Control is an illusion and always has been an illusion. It is a Hobbesian paradox that we cannot enforce change unless change has already occurred. Higher status—or even a persuasive presentation full of facts—is of limited utility. The lunatics run the asylum, the best we can do as leaders is empower them to run it right.
And that’s why change always requires leadership rather than authority. Respectable people always prefer incumbency to disruption. Only misfits are threatened by the status quo. So if you want to create real change, it is not power and influence that you need, but those who seek to overthrow them.”