Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leading Up - Influence without Authority

The art of influence is a powerful tool for both leaders and followers whether or not the authority to lead exists. Marsha Johnson shares her insight into influencing without authority in the YouTube video "Influencing Powerfully without Authority."

"Real leaders use authority as a fallback position." ~ Marsha Johnson

Looking out for our people includes not only those who work for us but also our leaders and peers. Leadership is about influencing others to accomplish tasks that are in the best interest of our organization; this often means influencing those above us and leading up. Similarly, we are open to upward leadership—and, in fact, encourage and reward it.

Fire leaders are expected to lead in many directions, an expectation that increases complexity and risk. Summoning the courage needed to intervene and influence peers or leaders above can be difficult, especially if providing unwelcome feedback about behavior or pointing out an alternative to a potentially bad decision.

However, in high-risk environments, no one can afford to assume that anyone has all the answers. Everyone, at every level, can make mistakes or feel pressure to make decisions without adequate information or make decisions based on outdated information. The potential for error is inherently high.

To build the kind of healthy and resilient culture required in the wildland fire service, we lead up—holding our leaders accountable, providing unvarnished situation awareness in challenging situations, and offering unbiased and viable alternatives.

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