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Power vs. Authority

 

 

Power vs. Authority

Management Tips

In today’s customer-oriented world, a shift in power doesn’t help us find or satisfy customers. What’s needed is a shift in authority and accountability.

There are two kinds of authority: ex officio authority and existential authority. Ex officio authority is your title and place on the organizational chart; it says nothing about your personal skills and leadership ability. Existential authority, on the other hand, grows out of how you actually practice your skills and leadership ability in a particular operational (or management) process. In the traditional corporation, you had no existential authority without ex officio authority. Now, it is being reversed. Today’s managers must look for ways to foster existential authority, often by bypassing the ex officio kind, or by getting rid of it altogether.

To accomplish this shift, however, managers do have to give up something. Not power (whatever that means), but something quite precise -- control, or more precisely, command-and-control. And that should kick up some fear. The feeling of being in control is the closest many managers ever come to the true personal satisfactions of existential authority; for many others, it’s the only thing that stands between them and panic.

Case in point
Letting go of control is a means of enabling. A symbolic action can be a potent means of signaling that you have indeed let go.

Leon Royer, when he was executive director of Organizational Learning Services, 3M, told me how he managed by letting go: In most corporations, signatures are a control tool. The frustrating question for employees becomes: How many signatures do I have to garner before I can go ahead and do something?

To help eliminate this frustration, everyone in my department signs for their own needs and expenditures. Some employees can approve larger expenditures than I can. That sends a powerful message, and we also remain within budget.

 

 

 

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