How True Authority Is Actually Gained

The idea of authority has gotten a great deal of attention in business circles the last few years. People who have amassed lots of fans and follows in social networks are seen to have authority. People who have lots of blog readers or who have carved out some niche of expertise are seen to have authority. Authors and speakers are deemed authoritative.


photo credit: Paul Worthington via photopin cc

But the idea of assigning authority based on position has rarely led to long-term positive impact. Think about those who command authority based on an elected role. We may respect the role, but resent the authority.

In this online social world we live in some individuals, by virtue of somewhat arbitrary measurements, have been able to assign and command authority, but I offer that authority, in the end, is earned through a much different path.

Ultimately, over time, authority is gained by how you relate to communities. How you serve and add value – and I sense a significant shift in what and whom we view as actually authoritative.

It’s not about being expert in a world that has no more subjects left to master. It’s about signal, signal that’s clear and true and consistent.

In a time where our reality is increasingly dictated by screens instead of people and experiences, I believe you command authority not by assigning it to yourself, but by practicing the following five habits.

Share an opinion that matters

Instead of picking up on the latest trend or finding a niche that seems wanting, you command authority by having and sharing a point of view that you believe is true and worth holding on to.

This can be your view on work or life or simply your advice to a client. It’s okay to say to the world – this is the one thing everyone must do – if you believe it, practice it and perfect it.

Surround yourself with teachers

This one is a little counterintuitive because people who want to command authority often strive to be seen as the teacher.

I’m here to tell you that growth and your ability to relate to and add to a community comes from spending a great deal of time as the most inexperienced person in the room.

When you become so big that your ego competes with this notion, you’re on your way down.

Stop seeking reinforcement

People who gain some little measure of authority often try to cling to it by surrounding themselves with people and information that supports what they already believe.

When we do things in an effort to please or prove how right we are, we lose the ability to expand and make choices that are evolutionary for us.

You command authority by exploring new ideas and intentionally stretching your level of comfort.

Expect a response

If you share and hold on to opinions that matter and you do so without trying to please others, you should expect people to respond and you should be prepared to nurture and grow that response into a community.

In fact, if you are to command authority you have a responsibility of sorts to deal with the positive and negative responses that come from how you relate to communities.

Be vulnerable

Vulnerability is another one of those terms that’s getting a lot of play and words these days.

One of the ways you command authority is to show the world you don’t need it. Show your community that you can be as silly, frightened, confused and happy as they are and they will trust your intentions even more.

This is a scary one for most leaders, but know that you don’t have to always have the answer – if you are to command authority people simply need to know they can trust you.

5 Simple Acts to Take Right Now


photo credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

The months of July and August can be slower ones for many small businesses in the U.S. While we’ve got a thing or two to learn from some other cultures about taking a “real” holiday, many business owners and their clients take vacations and spend less time thinking about business during the summer months.

You may still feel just as busy doing busy kind of things, but the key to making this mini breather pay is to look at the summer months as a launching pad for growth and improvement into next year. Many times we keep our head down doing the work and can’t seem to find the right amount of time to dedicate to the needs of the business.

Below are five things that I try to do each summer as a way to make the rest of the year more fruitful.

1) Find some new inspiration It’s pretty easy to get in the habit of reading the same blogs, following the same people, and picking up the same magazines. You may have developed your go to list and that’s great, but in doing so, it’s easy to miss fresh new voices with lots to say unless you get outside of your bubble.

Take one hour and reshuffle your RSS Reader. Think about some new categories of information you should be consuming and search around and find some lists of “who to read” in that category or industry. Clean out those newsletter subscriptions you never seem to read and make room for some new inspiration.

2) Start planning 2015 now Sometimes it feels like it’s hard to plan the week ahead much less dream about the vision for the future. The problem with this trap, however, is that where you want to go in 2015 and beyond should inform how you plan next week and maybe even tomorrow.

Take a day, or half of a day, and think about the big picture for 2015. Don’t wait until December to do it or you’ll find that it’s March before you actually start to think it’s 2015. (And then March Madness starts and you’re really in trouble.) Break the rest of this year into 90-day blocks and map the big projects you need to accomplish to make the big vision for next year happen right now!

3) Deepen a relationship When’s the last time your reached out to someone you hadn’t spoken with for a while just to say “hey let’s get coffee this week.” It’s probably been a while, right? We’re all so darn busy “building relationships” we don’t have the time to do what it actually takes to build relationships.

Whether you’ve slowed down a bit or not during this time of year, it’s a perfect time to identify a handful of relationships you’ve neglected and put some very mindful energy into renewing them. You pick – a couple of key customers, a strategic partner, a college friend, your brother, or maybe, even your spouse!

4) Learn a new skill I like to use the summer months each year to tackle something hard and confusing and valuable as a way to remain relevant and useful to my clients and my business. This year I’m diving deeper into analytics. It’s a bit like math to me, but may be the single most important gap I have in my ability to apply both experience and process to help make sense of marketing for my clients and readers.

I’ve subscribed to relevant blogs, picked up some books and tracked down an online course or two to create my curriculum. Of course, then I’ll immediately apply what I can in the real world.

5) Create a new habit Good habits are awesome because they do two things. If chosen wisely they can bring the benefit of doing something good for you on a consistent basis and they can help push another, not so good, habit out of the way. In fact, it’s been proven that the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.

This summer I’m getting back into yoga. I’ve been a long time practicer but somewhere in the stress and chaos created from my last book I lost it. My knees and my blood pressure tell me it’s time to get back to it.

There you have it – an entire plan for how to wisely use your August this year. Of course taking a little time off wouldn’t kill you either!

And finally – this sounds so ridiculous to say, but I’m just going to say it anyway – I’ve started turning my phone off for extended periods and I can’t believe how much less stress I feel. Give it a try!

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