Watching a skilled leader in action is always instructive. It’s particularly interesting when the leader doesn’t have any formal authority to accomplish the task at hand.
Leading without authority is a tough job. It requires skill, courage, patience, and often a little luck. While there are no sure-fire tricks to make it easy, there are things you can do to get better results. Here are three I would consider first.
- Build commitment. Why should people be excited about this project? Why should they care? If you are unable to answer these questions, this is the place to begin. One way to do this is to ask your team members why they wanted to be part of the project. If it was assigned to them, then ask how they can make the best of it. In other words, what would make this project worth their time?
- Address resource constraints. Organizations are notorious for assigning people to projects without relieving them of other responsibilities. Not surprisingly, people become overloaded and are forced to prioritize. When the resource crunch results in a decision between something the boss wants and something a project team leader wants, most people choose the boss. Help the people on your team establish boundaries with their bosses so that they can commit to the project.
- Expect follow-through. You might not have formal authority, but this does not mean you have to lower your expectations. When someone says they will do something, expect that it will be done. If it does not get completed, find out why. Raise this issue with the team or individual. Do not overlook it or accept it. Doing so simply makes bad behavior acceptable within the team. Expect more and you are likely to get more.