I’ve seen it over an over – a leader is given responsibility for a task and never really handed the full reigns to get it done. In fact, I’ve been there and I’m guessing that you have too.
A few years ago, I took a job as a Vice President responsible for a large-scale change management effort. The entire senior leadership team was new to the organization and we were all excited and filled with energy and ideas on how we could turn around a struggling business unit. Together, with the Senior Vice President that I reported to, we scoped out the organization structure that we thought was needed for the division to be successful. I was supposed to have a significant team helping me with the change management, leadership development and other programs that we wanted to accomplish over the year. Unfortunately, the very top people decided that he could only hire the first level leadership on the org chart and all of the other people could be hired “in time”. No surprise that we failed. Miserably. My boss never really had the authority to get the job done and as a result, neither did I. Every step had approval after approval after approval.
Are you tasked with leading but the constraints on your success are constantly pushing you under water? Here are six ways that you can reframe the situation and take a new perspective.
- Don’t stop leading. Throwing your hands up in the air and giving up is not an option when you know that you’re being managed too tightly. Complaining to your colleagues about the constraints will only make things worse too. Make a list of what you have been able to accomplish to date and enjoy it. Celebrate it. Think about sharing this much more positive list with colleagues for a change.
- Talk about what’s happening. I know, sounds too simple, but the people that you report to may not realize that they are holding you back from the shared goals that you want to accomplish. Be clear, concise and thoughtful about the challenges and risks that you’re facing.
- Ask for support. Asking for what you need is important – even if the answer is “no”. If you never speak up, not only will you be risking success but also people will ask why you never said anything or asked for the support that you needed.
- Scope out a plan. Ensure that the people that you report to understand your vision, plan and likely outcomes. In your plan be sure to put in risk factors – document it all. Ask for a blessing on your plan and once you have it, move forward.
- Stop asking for permission. I hate to say it but sometimes we are stuck without authority is because as leaders we look above us too often for approval. Find pieces that you can move on and do it with confidence and competence. When you need to make quick decisions make them. Inform others after, not before, and see what happens.
- Create a new path. If you are not empowered to move forward on the big vision at hand, find what you are able to do and do it. Big wins are paved with small successes along the way. What do you have the authority to move on? What decisions can you act on today?
You were hired for a reason and have a lot to offer. Don’t let responsibility without authority hold you back from being the leader that you want and need to be. Quiet acceptance does not make change. Find your pockets of authority and take action.
What are some other ways that you’ve found to be successful when you’ve been given responsibility but were not empowered as a leader to get things done?