Authority in Leadership

Have you ever been at work and you’ve seen someone who has just been promoted into a new job, and you’ve wondered ‘How the heck did they get that job ‘? Because who they are and the job role they have, do not seem to go hand in hand.

What is happening in those situations, is the difference between the ‘role’ someone holds, and how ‘great they really’ are in terms of their leadership execution.

What do you think of when you see the word is ‘authority’?  Is it good?, is it bad? Or is it a neutral word? We often think of a word, like authority, as dictatorial, or dominating. Or on the other hand, we can think of it as a word that brings order. Consider, for example, traffic lights where we have to stop and start. Really it is a neutral word, and it’s that word that I want to explain today in terms of how you and I operate as leaders, when we are with one another.

In the Greek language, and being a Greek Cypriot, I often look at the original meaning of words. In the Greek authority has two words.

Exousía  – The Role

The first word for authority is the word exousía. This is the role that someone holds, for example, you may have the role of husband/wife, dad/mum, friend, chef, store manager, facilitator and brother. All these roles have authority.

You see I have the authority, the exousía, called husband. It is my authority to love my wife, if someone else was loving my wife, then there would be a problem!!! So, it’s my role to love my wife, and certainly after 21 years she will certainly think that I’m doing a good job!! Similarly I hold the exousía of Dad. It is my role to raise my kids, to love and nurture my kids, to make them grow into great human beings making a contribution to society, and holding values which are great values, like integrity, fairness and justice. It is my authority to raise my kids, not the states responsibility.

Dynamis – The ‘Boom’ of the Role

But let’s take this now to the work situation. You may have seen someone in a role, and they are not good at it. They hold the role of exousía but there not doing it. So this is where we come to the second word, for authority. The Greek word is dynamis, which is where we get the English word dynamite, dynamic and dynamism from. You see, dynamis is the ‘boom’ that you and I have, which executes the exousía, the roles with excellence. Without that personal dynamis, it is impossible to fulfil a role, at a high standard of leadership excellence.

This is why at work, when you see sometimes people not performing there role, you think “How the heck did they get that job?” You can have the role, but it doesn’t mean that you’re any good at it. I can have the role of executive coach, but it doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. It is the dynamis which give me the boom. So what is dynamis? What is that dynamite?

Observing people, and learning from people I have worked with over the years I have discovered and observed there are three key elements to people who have dynamis.

3 Attributes of People Who Have Dynamis

  • Anticipate change – People of dynamis know that change is a constant. They recognise that culture, products, people do not remain the same. If you have dynamis, you are always mindful that the current state will not remain the current state.
  • Always Have a Choice – Working with successful leaders both in non-work and work situations, there has always been this constant theme that people of dynamis understand that they have a choice, in whatever situation, whatever context they find themselves in. One of the most important attributes when you and I hold a role (exousía ) is that we can choose our response (dynamis)
  • Principles are Universal – People who have dynamis understand that principals are universal and choosing principals is what draws other people to them. This is what makes their exousía is executed with excellence. What’s a principal? Justice, fairness, integrity, being loyal to those who are absent. People of dynamis understand that in an environment where there is constant change, they choose a principal which is the anchor of their leadership behaviours.