Beyond authority – beyond late

Where is the time going?  Without the discipline of the CILIP Update backlog and with other competing priorities this blog has been something of a ghost town.

The academic year is also fast approaching it’s end and there are a number of tasks still to complete for the PDR.

One of those was to consider the book Beyond Authority: leadership in a changing world (2007) Julia Middleton.

I had picked this out as addressing a particular challenge for me in my leadership role in that I currently operate with no direct reports.  For my service to improve I need to affect change but this has to happen by working through partners, with limited funds and with people who I do not have particular authority over.

The book itself considers how leaders can operate beyond the traditional forms of authority granted by position or control of funds.  It considers how circles of authority relate to your place in your wider organisation and society in general.  When we move into the outer circles we need to lead beyond authority.  My role places me frequently in this position. Indeed I can feel like I am outside my circle much of the time while working to deliver a service for one sector from within another and as the employee of an external organisation with those I frequently work with most closely.

Key sources of power when operating in the outer circle are identified as communication / networks followed by personality and ideas.  It has certainly been my experience that good ideas will win people over but that you need to get a lot of people on board for them then to advance.

The book explores different roles for those leading beyond authority.  I am attempting to be a transformer in driving change and the book is useful in highlighting the potential to be used as a useful idiot or expert idiot.

The bulk of the book considers what is required to lead beyond authority.  I was generally encouraged by these. Elements around the right approach fitting my perception of my character.  People are key and it is important for me to build my networks but also to get outside my professional bubble.  The right methods section was where I have most work to do – this is about the long game but particularly about building strategic coalitions.  To do this a clear strategic message is vital.  Having been introduced to Strategy on a page as part of my NHS Leadership programme it seems a good place to start.

All in all a worthwhile read – I suspect that even those who feel they operate firmly within their own organisation and with the ability to direct a team to achieve their strategic goals would benefit from considering how they might reach out and work effectively beyond the library bubble.

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