Mapping influencers through an authority lens

At a recent Agile on the bench meetup, Matthew Butt gave a great talk called Hacking Authority in which he explored different types of authority that exist within organisations.

It is a really interesting lens that can be used to view influencers in an organisation and I’ll be using it for a workshop very soon to create an influence map. Then using this map along with a proposed approach for each type of authority to help the team direct their efforts.

The types of authorities that Matthew described were: traditional, legal, referent, expert, informational, coercive and reward. These are all notable in many situations and organisational structures. They are also non-exclusive, meaning that one person may have a combination of those authorities.

 

These types in more detail (all the images here are Matthew’s lovely drawings):


Traditional

“Always been that way, long-established customs, habits and structures”

Examples: monarch, founder of an organisation

Ways to gain this type of authority: Found a company, marry into it, be adopted or mentored

Things to be aware of: this is a structured hierarchy that you can’t change and is unlikely to change in a lifetime.

The approach: Sell the ideas into these people and help them to understand how they can support you through top-down messages.


Legal (Positional)

“Explicitly put in a position, formal rules and established laws of the organisation”

Examples: Government Minister, CTO, Executor of a will

Ways to gain this type of authority: apply (other authority required), position yourself to be the obvious candidate (other authority required)

Things to be aware of: this is a structured hierarchy that you can’t change and it is unlikely to change quickly. Bureaucracies are the result of this type of authority.

The approach: Sell the ideas into these people and help them to understand how they can support you through top-down messages. Ask them what restrictions/rules may stop you and how/if you can work together to change those rules (if needed)


Referent (Charismatic)

“Achieved through personal characteristics, integrity, fairness and respect to others.”

Examples: religious leaders, heroes, celebrities, Salesperson

Ways to gain this type of authority: This is built outside of the framework of any formal rules through networking, building trust, being accessible and approachable.

Things to be aware of: This is a trusted and/or influential member of an organisation. They have a lot of influence over culture so can have a big impact on helping with organisational change.

The approach: Sell the ideas into these people and find ways for them to get involved. Their buy-in will lead to others’ buy-in.


Expert

“Someone with skills and qualifications (or the perception of them)”

Examples: attorney general,  expert

Ways to gain this type of authority: Formal mechanisms such as qualifications and education, recommendations, experience. Can also be gained by bluffing.

Things to be aware of: This influence is as good as the last thing they have done. Sharing knowledge will reduce the authority that they have (while building referent authority).

The approach: Sell the ideas into these people and find out what skills they have that can help. Recruit them to train/upskills others.


Informational

“Privileged access to information”

Examples: access to a server, knowledge on how to navigate rules

Ways to gain this type of authority: Radiate information, become the go-to person on a topic.This can also be gained by building systems that no one else understands.

Things to be aware of: This authority can create bottlenecks and single person dependencies, sharing information is one way to reduce it.

The approach: Sell the ideas into these people and help them to understand how they can support through the information they have. Bring them closer to the team to reduce bottlenecks.


Coercive

“Fear, forcefull, suppression of free will, threats and punishment”

Examples: Police officer, line manager, through disciplinary proceedings

Ways to gain this type of authority: Calling out bad behaviour, negative reinforcement, formal reprimands.

Things to be aware of: This can create a fear culture, lower job satisfaction, stifle creativity and damage effectiveness. It’s important to work with those that have this authority in order to change approach and re-direct efforts.

The approach: Sell the ideas into these people and help them to understand how they can support the change through different methods. You may need to bring them closer to your team and spend more time with them.


Reward

“Reward, gifts and attention”

Examples: the state, through honours, line manager, through promotion, praise

Ways to gain this type of authority: positive reinforcement, gifts, celebrations, attention.

Things to be aware of: It can be seen or used for bribing. It must be swift, generous and appropriate. It can be short-lived. There are certain roles that will benefit from adopting this approach.

The approach: This is more of a cultural approach than individuals. Share stories of those doing this and encourage the behaviour from others.


Also, check out Matthew’s links from his original talk

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