Sunday, April 25, 2010

Curious about Authority: How Do You Feel about Having It and/or Experiencing Someone Else with It?

Definition of Authority: Legal or rightful power; a right to command or to act; power exercised by a person in virtue of his office or trust; dominion; jurisdiction; authorization. The power derived from opinion, respect, or esteem; influence of character, office, or station.

Those who enjoy responsibility usually get it; those who merely like exercising authority usually lose it.” - Malcolm Forbes, American publisher

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out.” - Ronald Reagan, American President

I chose “authority” for this week’s theme because it popped up a couple of times in the books I was reading and the CDs I was listening to, and then in my fitness classes. Let me tell you the story.

The classes have all grown in size – as many as 35 people in some. I am quite time oriented and start right at the scheduled time. Most of the participants arrive early, pick up their tools and get settled in their spots. However, there are several – and usually the same ones – who arrive late and after we have started. They still have to pick up the tools of the class and then get settled.

Quite a few of the on-time students pointed out to me that these late-comers cause distractions. They urged me to say something about it. “After all, it is your class and you have the authority.” So, at the end of each class I pointed out that, especially in the Yoga class, coming in late was causing an interruption to the flow of the classes. So, if they could arrive even a few minutes early, we would all – including them – benefit.

It has been better since, and many of the on-timers have thanked me. I learned that I don’t need to be a heavy-handed authority figure, but I should make use of it when called for. How about you? If you are in a position of authority, how and when do you use it?

As usual, the quotations were plentiful and eye opening:
  • That's why editors and publishers will never be obsolete: a reader wants someone with taste and authority to point them in the direction of the good stuff, and to keep the awful stuff away from their door.” - Walter Jon Williams, American writer
  • There is no moral authority like that of sacrifice.” - Nadine Gordimer, South African novelist
  • Where the people possess no authority, their rights obtain no respect.” - George Bancroft, American historian
  • The wisest have the most authority.” – Plato, Greek philosopher
  • Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” - Leonardo da Vinci, Italian artist
  • Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character.” - Robert E. Lee, American soldier

And a few more with a different twist:

  • Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt.” - Vita Sackville-West, English novelist
  • Authority without wisdom is like a heavy ax without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.” – Anne Bradstreet, American poet
  • If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing yourself - your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Invest at least 30% managing those with authority over you, and 15% managing your peers.” - Dee Hock, American businessman
  • My only purpose is to teach children to rebel against authority figures.” - Sherman Alexie, American writer
  • Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us?” - William O. Douglas, American judge
  • But because our organization has grown so much and in so many different ways, the delegation process places responsibility and authority on the shoulders of people you can watch grow and watch the way they treat others.” - Vince McMahon, American entertainer

How do you feel about authority? I would love to hear about times when you were called upon to use yours.