During last week’s BigVisible Office Day, I led a discussion about authority. This is one of those key concepts that we all think we understand. The reality is that each of us has deeply ingrained views, experiences and emotions about authority. These deep-seated mental models affect how we react to each other in certain situations. On top of all that, authority is a primary component of both the work we do and the culture of the organizations in which we work.

Words About Authority in Continuous Improvement Context

Authority Words

In this photo are some other words and thoughts we associated with authority. The middle column are words I asked people to blurt out as what they thought of first when thinking of authority. The left column are verbs associated with authority and the right are things we “do with” authority. As a group, we built these lists as a way to set the stage for a discussion about how authority is part of our lives and our work with clients.

Continuous Improvement & Authority

I recently found it very useful to think about my own mental anchors related to authority. How do I react to it? How do I gain it? Should I have it and when? How do I react when someone is in authority over me? Do they really have authority or am I granting that to them when I shouldn’t?

Would a change to how you, your team or your organization treats authority be something valuable?