Leading without authority

Coaching Corner- Leading Without Authority

Leading without authority

Coaching Corner- Leading Without Authority

How can I get more cooperation from others I depend on in my job when I have no leadership authority over them?

Are you feeling fatigued, frustrated or even ready to quit because you are in a job with lots of responsibility but no leadership authority? Feeling stuck with having no authority over others?  Being a leadership coach, some of my clients and others raise this dilemma with me seeking ideas on how to get around it.

Here’s a better question, from a different perspective – What specifically can you do to foster the greatness in those you work with and create collaborative partnerships with them? 

Recently, a new leadership book, Leading Without Authority, by Keith Ferrazzi, caught my attention.  I couldn’t help but explore what he had to say on this subject.  Ferrazzi brings to our attention, that traditional organizational structures in which a person’s leadership authority is based on their title and position description, no longer reflect the path that leads to achieving high performance, innovation and accountability in others. 

A 2016 research study published by Deloitte Consulting, identified the rise of team structures in organizations is a growing trend. Five years later, we can see that organizations are shifting more and more from functional based structures that often create silos, narrowed vision, and limited problem-solving, to creating more flexible and interconnected structures, such as cross-functional teams for designing new administrative processes and information systems or internal venture teams launching new educational programs or revolutionary inventions.  In response to these new organizational structures, Ferrazzi champions a new approach which he calls “Co-elevation”. Co-elevation, he defines, “is a mission driven approach to collaborative problem-solving through fluid partnerships and self-organizing teams”. It is the key to being an effective leader regardless of one’s title, position, where or how you work.

Ferrazzi is serial entrepreneur and well-known innovator; it’s no surprise that he disrupts traditional leadership models and posits 8 NEW WORK RULES FOR THE NEW WORK PLACE:

Rule #1: Who’s Your Team?

Your team is made up of everyone – inside and outside the organization – whoever is important to achieving your goals or mission.

Rule #2: Accept that it is All on You

Leadership is everyone’s responsibility. Seize the responsibility to help your team succeed. See the potential in everyone. Collaborate in supporting their growth and success. Do what it takes to be of value to your team and organization.

Rule #3: Earn Permission to Lead

Lead and act with a generosity of spirit in service to your teammates to achieve goals you co-created and planned together. Earn their permission to lead by serving, sharing, and caring.

Rule #4: Create Deeper, Richer, More Collaborative Partnerships

It’s the new normal for co-creating ground-breaking ideas and solutions that respond to the needs of those you serve and achieving the higher mission.

Rule #5Co-Development

With a spirit of caring and commitment to their success, offer teammates candid feedback they need to improve skills and behaviors that will lead to the success of the mission. Seek their feedback as well.

Rule #6Praise and Celebrate

Show gratitude. Praise them in the way you know they would appreciate it most. Acknowledge contributions they make to the mission, even the ones that may have not been perfect or were magnificent failures.

Rule #7: Co-Elevate the Tribe

When one team member falters on the path and holds back the mission, enlist the help of other teammates to elevate that team member and their contribution.

Rule #8: Join the Movement

By striving to adopt co-elevating practices you and your teammates will contribute to transforming culture to where leading isn’t only by authority and will leads to greater productivity, creativity, innovation, and deeper relationships with others.

Trust and Authenticity

Drawing on case studies, he shows how the new rules foster co-elevated leadership and highly engaged self-managed work teams.  Reviewing these rules, I noticed two underlying fundamental principles -- being adept at earning the trust of others and willing to be authentic. These are essential for creating co-elevated partnerships and environments where everyone can flourish and teams can achieve beyond their individual capabilities.  In this way, you earn permission to lead, to co-create a common vision and path where others will want to share their time, talent, resources and knowledge.  Ferrazzi says co-elevating starts with a posture of “serve and share”.  When you lead with a generosity to be authentic, open to new ideas and inviting others to share theirs, it creates trust and collaboration.

In what ways can you level up your leadership effectiveness by using these co-elevating practices?  Why not consider the possibilities?


Keith Ferrazzi, Leadership Without Authority: How the new power of co-elevation can break down silos, transform teams, and reinvent collaboration. (New York: Currency by Random House, 2020)

Tiffany McDowell, Dimple Agarwal, Don Miller, Tsutomu Okamoto and Trevor Page, Global Human Capital Trends 2016, Organizational Design: The Rise of Teams, (Deloitte University Press, 2016)


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