Brian Bowman-Leading without Authority

Author of Book: Keith Ferrazzi
Date Read: January 25, 2024

Book Report

Too often, we allow our job titles and official responsibilities to define what we do (or don’t do). Managers tend to think of themselves as leaders only in relation to their direct reports. They rely on their titles and official budget to get things done, and allow bureaucracy and silos to limit their impact.

In reality, you don’t need a formal title or direct reports to be a leader. There are countless examples of people who have stepped up to lead without formal authority. They cultivate partners who want to work with them, and get people to collaborate across functional/organizational boundaries to achieve growth, fulfillment and better outcomes for all parties involved.

Keith Ferrazzi and his team spent more than 10 years researching and testing ways for people to exercise informal leadership. In this book, he presents 8 rules of co-elevation, along with specific practices to help anyone to lead without authority.

Co-elevation is a collaborative problem-solving approach that anyone (regardless of title or position) can use to find supporters, rally them behind a shared mission, build trust/candor, and solve problems in a way that brings everyone to greater heights. In short, you can truly create win-win and have a bigger impact regardless of your title or position.

Keith Ferrazzi breaks this down into 8 related rules that you can use to understand and apply the concepts of co-elevation, and lead without authority. Now, let’s have a quick look at the 8 rules. You can get more details (including tips for real-life application) for each rule in our complete summary bundle of the Leading Without Authority summary.

The 8 Rules of Co-Elevation1. Redefine Who’s on Your Team
Your team is not limited to your direct reports in the organizational chart. It includes everyone who’s critical for achieving your goals and mission, including people outside your department or organization. The bigger your goal or mission, the greater the number of people outside your formal authority you must lead/influence. If you’re a HR manager rolling out a learning program, you need the support of leaders and employees throughout the organization. If you’re a brand manager launching a new product, you need the support of both internal partners (e.g. product design, manufacturing, sales) and external partners (e.g. distributors and channel partners).

Ultimately, your power is defined by your impact, not your position. Extend the same level of care and commitment to everyone on your wider team, not just the teams you’re assigned to (or the teams assigned to you).

Practices to apply Rule 1 and find your team-mates

  • Start where it’s easiest, e.g. positive people who grasp the shared vision and want to work with you. Ignore the nay-sayers/resisters.
  • Focus on a key priority. This could be an urgent issue, or something keeping you awake at night. Ask yourself: Whose support do I need? How can I co-elevate to move forward?
  • Confront an issue/person you’ve been avoiding. It’s likely to involve a hot button or a difficult problem to be resolved.
  • Think of people you admire, i.e. people who inspire you or wish to learn from. Get them on your team.
  • Identify people who could benefit from your help, e.g. someone who has potential, or someone who’s falling behind. How can you help them through collaboration, mutual coaching or development?
  • Once you’re familiar with co-elevation, develop a relationship action plan (RAP) for each of your projects or teams. [Check out the full Leading Without Authority summary for a breakdown of the steps involved!

2. Assume It’s All On You
Don’t wait for leadership to be conferred on you. Take full responsibility for the issues you care about. Do whatever it takes to create value for your team/organization, even if it means going beyond your official job scope.

3. Earn the Right To Invite Others
Don’t try to sell your ideas directly or persuade others to join you. Earn the permission to lead by serving, sharing, and caring for others first. That way, when people join you, they’re genuinely excited and passionate about starting a shared journey together.

4. Make Collaboration the New Norm
Don’t use co-elevation as a last resort only when you can’t solve a problem on your own. Develop deep partnerships and make co-elevating collaboration the new norm. Only then can you co-create new breakthroughs regularly and consistently.

5. Take Ownership for Co-Development
Coaching and mentoring are vital at the workplace. Yet, traditional classroom training or formal coaching can be challenging due to resource constraints, tight schedules and rapid changes. Take charge of your team’s growth and development, encourage peer-to-peer co-development, and support team-mates who may be falling behind.

6. Spread Positive Energy With Praise and Celebration
Small amounts of targeted, positive energy can spread quickly throughout an organization to create massive momentum and impact. Use praise, celebration, and appreciation to amplify positive energy, multiply desired behaviors, and increase receptivity to change.

7. Co-Elevate the Team with Other Members
Don’t give up on team members who are struggling or resistant to change. Enlist the help of other members to co-elevate the entire team, so everyone can cross the finish line together. The key is to grow your number of co-elevating relationships until you reach a cricical mass of team members who will help to spread the practices.

8. Be A Part Of The Social Movement
Keep applying the practices above, improving your co-elevation skills, and teaching others to do the same. In the process, you’ll create a cultural transformation within and beyond your organization.