There seems to be a lot of confusion related to the authority of the manager, especially if the manager has a change project to deliver on behalf of the company. On the one hand, the one managing wants to be able to influence the thinking of the group towards collaboration, the “big picture” and alignment of purpose, but and on the other hand, doesn’t want to impose ideas or thinking on the group. This “tightrope walk” is stressful, but manageable if the leader is aware of and buys into the boundaries of his/her role.

Heron (The Facilitator’s Handbook) suggests three alternates (initially in the educational context) for facilitator/change leader authority:

  1. Tutelary authority – based on the competencies and skills of the leader
  2. Political authority – involving the exercise of decision-making with respect to the objectives, programme, method, resources and assessment of learning and application (performance management in a business context and often manifesting in the planning and execution phases)
  3. Charismatic authority – influence by presence, style and manner (manifesting primarily through the feeling, confronting and valuing dimensions)

In the business context, all three leadership “authorities” are necessary (even important) for the company to achieve its objectives. These authorities, however, lie in the leadership role and not exclusively, as often thought, in the disposition or management level of the leader. A CEO, for example, could delegate authority to a competent manager in order to achieve business goals. Once the manager understands the role and the purpose of the intervention, a method of collaboration integrity and transparency can be devised to achieve the objectives.

The leader, within a business context, needs to be circumspect about authority, ideally referring to company goals (vision, mission, strategy and other objectives) as the basis for leading the session or the project. Although management level plays a necessary role, it should never be relied upon or utilised to authenticate authority for collaboration or other forms of discussion towards change.

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