August 2, 2023

Ditch the Label: How Authority-Based Leadership is Slowly Killing Your Team’s Potential

Recently my son and I were out with a group of children at a museum in eastern North Carolina. The children ranged in ages 4 – 8…And there were eight of them. They enjoyed much of their time laughing, playing, and being loud, as children often do. As our time at the museum can to an end, I, along with the other two chaperones, had a bit of a difficult time trying to corral the children. My neurodiverse 7-year-old stepped up and yelled, “1-2-3 eyes on me. Guys, we have to get in line. Everyone stands in front of me.”

As a proud mom, I glowed at his instinct to be a leader. His leadership was evident because everyone complied with his request. Before I knew it, he had the kids following him in a duck row out of the museum. Later that day, we stopped at another entertainment location my kid was yet again on point to gather the troops.   It was then that I noticed the oldest of the children was frustrated at his younger cousin leading the line. I asked him what was wrong, and he retorted to me, “Why does he get to lead all the time, I’m the oldest. I’m supposed to lead.” And I simply stated to him because “He stepped up”. Leadership is more than an assignment, or an age,  it’s the ability to see the need and meet the need.

In this blog we’ll talk about how leading with the title is probably the least effective style of leadership there is. I’m sure that’s gonna win me a lot of fans, but it’s a fact. So, here we go.

“Influence always outpaces authority.”
― Clay Scroggins

Author, How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge

This post will dive deep into the theory that true leadership isn’t confined to those who hold authority or a fancy title. Get ready to explore how leading through actions rather than labels can transform not just your career, but your entire organization.

Key Takeaways

  • Leading by title and authority often lacks genuine influence, resulting in superficial compliance rather than meaningful engagement.
  • It can limit creativity and innovation within a team or organization, as people may hesitate to think outside the box or suggest new ideas.
  • True leadership involves leading through example, inspiring others through actions, building trust and loyalty, and fostering a positive work culture.

The Downfalls of Leading by Title and Authority

Leading by title and authority often lacks genuine influence, limiting creativity and innovation while fostering resistance to change.

Lack of genuine influence

It’s easy to assume that a title or position affords you influence. But in reality, leading by label often results in a lack of genuine impact. As an executive or manager, your team may follow your directives out of fear or obligation, but not because they’re truly motivated and committed.

Consequently, this can lead to superficial compliance rather than meaningful engagement. People are more likely to invest their time and effort when they believe in the vision and trust the leader guiding them.

The book “Leading Without Authority” aptly outlines this concept – leadership is less about formal authority and more about influence through action. Henceforth, relying on titles as the primary means for control stands as a flawed approach to leadership that falls short in sustaining long-term loyalty and productivity from teams.

Limited creativity and innovation

As leaders, it’s important to recognize that leading by title and authority can often limit creativity and innovation within a team or organization. When people feel compelled to follow instructions simply because of their superior’s position, they may hesitate to think outside the box or suggest new ideas.

This can stifle growth and prevent the exploration of fresh perspectives.

True leadership should encourage a culture of open-mindedness and creativity, where individuals feel empowered to share their thoughts and take risks. By leading through example rather than relying on formal authority, leaders can inspire their teams to push boundaries, explore innovative solutions, and ultimately drive progress.

It’s important for leaders to create an environment that supports experimentation and embraces failure as a learning opportunity. This type of inclusive leadership fosters a sense of ownership among employees while fueling constant improvement and growth in an organization.

By enabling individuals at all levels to contribute their unique insights without fear of retribution, leaders can tap into the vast reservoirs of talent within their teams. This not only enhances overall productivity but also cultivates a diverse range of ideas that could lead to breakthrough innovations.

Employees who are encouraged to think creatively become more engaged with their work, which ultimately boosts morale and job satisfaction.

Resistance to change

Resistance to change is a common challenge faced by leaders who rely on their title and authority. When leaders simply dictate what needs to be done without considering the input or perspective of others, there is often resistance and pushback.

This resistance can hinder progress and innovation within an organization, as employees may feel disengaged or uninvolved in the decision-making process. By leading through example and involving others in the process of change, leaders can foster a culture of collaboration and openness to new ideas.

This approach not only reduces resistance but also encourages creativity, adaptability, and growth within the team or organization.

The Power of Leading by Example

Leading by example is a powerful way to inspire others, build trust and loyalty, and foster a positive work culture.

Inspiring others through actions

Leading by example is a powerful way to inspire others and create a positive work culture. When leaders demonstrate their values and principles through their actions, it resonates with their team members on a deeper level.

It shows that they practice what they preach and are committed to the success of the organization. This authenticity builds trust and loyalty among employees, as they can see firsthand the integrity of their leader.

By leading with service and showing genuine care for their team, leaders become role models and encourage others to follow suit. Ultimately, inspiring through actions creates a ripple effect throughout the organization, fostering an environment where everyone feels motivated to contribute and make a difference.

Building trust and loyalty

One of the most crucial aspects of leading by example is building trust and loyalty among your team. People are more likely to follow and be influenced by leaders they trust and believe in.

When leaders consistently demonstrate integrity, transparency, and authenticity, it fosters a sense of trust within the organization. Trust is essential for effective communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

It allows employees to feel safe in taking risks and sharing their ideas without fear of judgment or retribution. Building trust also leads to increased loyalty from employees who feel valued and supported by their leader.

Fostering a positive work culture

Building a positive work culture is crucial for effective leadership, regardless of one’s title or authority. A positive work culture creates a supportive environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and encouraged to give their best.

It fosters collaboration, open communication, and a sense of belonging within the team. Studies have shown that organizations with strong workplace cultures have higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, leading to increased productivity and retention.

As leaders, it is important to prioritize creating a positive work culture by promoting inclusivity, providing regular feedback and recognition, encouraging personal growth and development opportunities, valuing diversity of perspectives and ideas, and fostering a healthy work-life balance.


Leading by title and authority may provide some initial power and control, but it ultimately falls short in creating long-lasting impact. True leadership is not about forcing or coercing others to follow, but rather about inspiring through actions and building trust.

By leading by example and fostering a positive work culture, leaders can create lasting influence that goes beyond titles and positions. So let us focus on character-based leadership and the power of influence rather than relying solely on labels and formal authority.


1. Why don’t leaders who rely on their title and authority last long?

Leaders who rely solely on their title and authority often struggle to inspire and motivate their team members. This approach can create a sense of resentment or disengagement among employees, leading to decreased productivity, higher turnover rates, and ultimately the leader’s inability to maintain their position.

2. What are the drawbacks of leading by label?

Leading by label often limits a leader’s effectiveness as it emphasizes hierarchical power rather than building genuine connections with team members. This can result in a lack of trust, communication barriers, and an inability to adapt to changing circumstances or seek innovative solutions.

3. How can leaders overcome the limitations of leading by title and authority?

To overcome these limitations, leaders should focus on developing strong interpersonal skills, fostering open communication channels, actively listening to their team members’ perspectives, promoting collaboration and teamwork, empowering individuals within the organization, and leading by example rather than relying solely on positional power.

4. What qualities should leaders possess in order to be successful without relying on their title or authority?

Successful leaders who do not rely solely on their title or authority possess qualities such as empathy, emotional intelligence, strong communication skills, adaptability, humility,

and a willingness to learn from others. These traits enable them to build positive relationships with their team members based on trust, respect, and mutual growth

Natalie R. Parker

About Natalie Renee Parker

Natalie Renee Parker an organizational whisper. Leading Natalie Paker Enterprises, she champions organizational health, utilizing her skills as an organizational development and strategy consultant to partner with her clients in achieving their goals. With a values-based authenticity approach, she fosters trust and open communication, tackling key issues and facilitating opposing views for transformative growth. Natalie’s extensive experience in talent development and strategic consulting brings lasting positive impacts to businesses.


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