You know how sometimes a particular topic will not stop popping up? Everything you read, every conversation you have all ends up coming back to that one thing? This past week, I have had countless conversations with leader friends about authority and responsibility in leadership.
As I have been thinking and reading and talking about this subject, I keep coming back to four key leadership principles. So here they are: 4 Facts About Authority and Responsibility in Leadership (along with a leader profile for each):
1. Authority without responsibility is a dictator.
Brenda is a bully of a leader. Her leadership is accountable to none. She gives every one of her tasks away behind the mask of “good delegation.” Brenda also undermines the credibility and authority of others by overturning decisions with no involvement in their eventual outcome. She has people buffering her from the rest of the staff which keeps her from feeling the consequences of her actions. Brenda leaves a path of destruction everywhere she goes.
2. Responsibility without authority is a disaster.
Danielle has continued to grow in her skills and has been given the responsibilities to match. But with no authority to carry out her plans, she is left frustrated with incomplete projects at every turn. She wants to move ahead but finds herself stuck in the never-ending cycle of needed approvals. Exhausted with fruitless efforts, Danielle develops a contagious attitude of contempt.
3. Leaders are given authority but take responsibility.
Terri has been given authority because of her role and extensive experience. She takes responsibility for not only her actions but the actions of her teams. Terri expects and welcomes accountability for herself and others. She is generous with praise and stingy with blame.
4. Leaders who give responsibility with authority will empower with excellence.
Elizabeth sees potential in each of her team members. As they grow in their experience, she offers them new challenges to stretch their leadership muscles. And with each added responsibility, Elizabeth gives her team the authority to accomplish the task while providing a clear vision of success. She coaches them along allowing for mistakes as they learn.
What have you learned in leadership about authority and responsibility?