Leading Equals

Motivating People Effectively, Without Authority

The only difference between you and your colleagues is that you're in charge.

© iStockphoto/ravelin3d

Does this sound like a job you'd want?

You'll be managing a diverse group of people from a variety of departments. They each have different areas of expertise and different ways of getting work done. The people don't report to you, and you'll have little or no authority to direct their performance. However, you'll be held accountable for the team's output. To accomplish the team's goals, you'll be expected, among other things, to motivate, facilitate, encourage, communicate effectively, build trust, and resolve conflict.

This doesn't sound like a lot of fun, does it?

When leading a team of your peers, these are typical challenges.

Leadership is a complex subject. There are visionary leaders, empowering leaders, charismatic leaders, and values-based leaders. For each of these styles, there are situations where that style is and is not effective. However, the one thing that traditional leaders can usually rely on, regardless of their style or situation, is legitimate power. When things get tough, a traditional leader has the status and position to demand how work is done.

But when you're in charge of a team of your peers, your level of authority is often nonexistent. You might have as little status as the person to whom the work has been given – but is that enough to lead what is essentially a horizontal collaboration?

To lead a multifunctional peer group, you must have all the characteristics of great leaders – and then some. Here are the key skills you'll need to succeed.

Master the Group Process

Learn to lead discussions and proactively manage different personalities. You never know what past experiences – good and bad – team members have had with one another.

Whatever the history, your role as leader starts with setting a positive foundation for the team's interactions:

  • Establish a relaxed environment, where everyone is encouraged to share opinions and ideas.
  • Ask for input from everyone, and encourage quieter members to speak up.
  • Use active listening   skills, like paraphrasing and asking questions for clarification.
  • Insist on respect for one another and, for tasks taking a lot of time and effort, consider developing a team charter   to define your team's goals and how the team will work.
  • Use participative decision making tools, and try to ensure active involvement and commitment from the team.

Empower Team Members

Leaders who give power to others can be very influential and motivating. When leaders...

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