Show What's in It for Them! Five Ways to Lead With Authority

Many of us spend much of our time working with people who possess high- ranking positional titles.

These colleagues may be our bosses, our co-workers or even members of different departments. They seem to have control over how we run our jobs or at least we allow them that power. I see this pushy behavior all the time and hear the frustrations from those leaders who feel beholden to these “positional” leaders.

Just this week I spoke with a young leader who felt she was not being heard or recognized by senior people. Although she was a SME (subject matter expert), she was receiving pushback from higher-ups in a department she was helping. Here were some of her concerns:

“They just don’t take me seriously or see my needs as a priority.”

“They think just because they have the title, that they can treat me this way or dodge my requests.”

“I am doing important work and really can help them grow.”

I turned to her and said: “You need to let them know that you have the authority to roll-out the new plan. You have to lead with authority.”

Five ways to lead with authority:


The first step to lead with authority is owning the fact that we are the best person to carry out a project or plan. We need to make sure our bosses have told others that we have the authority to run the show and we are the point person. Then we need to have the confidence that we are in charge of whatever piece we are overseeing.


The best way to have others see us leading with authority is to develop a connection with them. What does that mean?

  • Set up a time to meet with them that works for both of you.
  • Be clear in what the project is all about and your expectations from them.
  • Ask them to share any concerns and validate them.
  • Be respectful while leading with purpose and passion.

    As trust is the foundation of everything we do, leading with authority involves earning trust. That means sharing the full truths about your entire project and plan and listening to challenges they may be facing. Do not make assumptions. Do not judge. Share how important it is to you, your team and your organization to make this new plan a priority. Show appreciation for all their support.


    To truly lead with authority we need to be credible and that means having strong technical and communication skills.

  • Explain your role and how your particular background and skills are a perfect fit for leading this new venture.
  • Demonstrate how you will guide them each step of the way and be available for deeper understanding.
  • Share your passion about the change and how you will keep them informed along the way.

    Leading with authority is always about identifying the benefits to others for a new direction. Showing those in titled positions how they and their department will grow and flourish can be very persuasive in getting them aboard to follow you. If they fear that this is just another “flavor of the month” project, they will be reticent to give it value or any priority. It is up to you to enthusiastically promote the new plan and identify why it is so critical to your organization’s success.