Authority Versus Leadership

23 August 2019
Mark Friend
Building a Business, Payroll, People

Over the many years I have been in business the one thing I have changed considerably is my “leadership” style.  Through observing the owners of successful businesses, through research and trial and error I have built my own leadership style which has evolved significantly since I first started to build a team.

For many of us being the boss is one of the most difficult roles to fulfil. Most of us are trained to do a trade or profession – e.g. an electrician, a debt collector, a bricklayer, an engineer, a health and safety consultant, an accountant. What we were probably not trained for was how to sell, how to negotiate and how to lead.

In the early stages of building your team the concerns are:

  • Can I afford to take on staff?
  • How am I going to keep them busy and productive?
  • How do I know that I am getting the most out of that person?
  • How do I get more out of that person?

We have all heard stories of business owners and managers who are highly authoritarian in their approach. From spying on their team using recording devices, barking orders, swearing, giving excessive workloads, setting unreasonable deadlines and so on. Being authoritarian might for some be part of their DNA (it is in mine) and may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but does that make you a good leader?

An individual in authority makes use of power in order to get people on side or to undertake an activity with him or her. Such a person has the backing of whatever laws or rules are there and therefore they are able to get others to perform their part in achieving a particular objective.

By contrast, a leader gets people to perform a task or embark on a journey out of their own interest. These people are able to identify with whatever the leader is doing and as such make conscious efforts to work towards the same goals as the leader in order to achieve set objectives.

Authority comes in various forms and can be seen by the way a particular person exerts his or her power on others. A leader allows those who follow to make their own choice. This is the most significant distinction between a leader and someone who has authority. A leader always ensures that his or her followers make their own choice to follow his or her lead without being forced or asked to do so.

As a business owner you need to be a leader. To build a great business it helps to build a great team and to develop managers who are great leaders as well. Anyone in your business can become a “leader”, irrespective of their formal role within the firm. Just because you have a formal title of “manager” does not mean you are a leader. Here are a few of my favourite leadership tips:

Have a clear vision

If you don’t know where you are heading, how will you know when you have arrived at the destination? Put differently, it is essential that you create a clear vision of what you want the team to achieve so that everyone understands.

Learn to be a good listener

You are the leader and have many ideas, opinions and solutions. Your team know this but also want to feel able to offer their views and know they have been heard. A good leader recognises this and focuses most of their communication on listening.

Be someone who makes decisions

As a leader you need to weigh up the upside and downside of any particular option and then decide. Team members may not always support your decisions 100% or may not have made exactly the same decision. On the other hand, they will respect you for making a decision and doing so quickly.

Empower your team

One of the big advantages of a team is the range and variety of skills and experience that is available. You know what you are good at and not so good at, so empower those to do what they do best.

Being a boss is easy, being a leader is more problematical as I know from first-hand experience! If you have concerns about leadership then apply the tips above and if you need help in doing so please contact me.

The content in this blog is correct as at 02/08/2019. See terms and conditions.

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