To Lead Without Authority, Start by Knowing Your Leadership Strengths

Raises, rewards, high performance ratings… when you lead a team, you have countless ways to inspire and incentivize great work. But what happens when you don’t have access to any of those?

Leading without authority is a fairly common situation, whether you’re working in a cross-functional team, running a startup, or managing volunteers. In our first Leadership Coach discussion, we explored how to influence others in the absence of any formal reporting structure or hierarchy.

In his book, Leading Without Authority, Keith Ferrazzi talks about “co-elevation,” the idea that people can achieve more and go higher when they collaborate. Your collaborators can be vital to a project’s success, even if they aren’t in your group or on your team in an official capacity. Ferrazzi says the first step is knowing who’s on your team; if your formal team doesn’t have the right stuff to get a project done, look across organizational boundaries to fill in the gaps.

Understand Your Leadership Strengths

When I think about engaging others to collaborate on projects with me, I like to start by asking the question, “What am I bringing to this equation?” Recognizing my own strengths makes it easier for me to choose the right collaborators and form a well-rounded team.

There are many leadership assessments online that you can use to identify your strengths. Here’s the one we use at Forté: What’s Your Leadership Compass?  Download the pdf, check the boxes that apply to you, and add up the number you marked in each section. The highest number is your leadership orientation: North, South, East, or West. If you get a tie, your leadership style is likely a combination of both.

Download our Leadership Compass and find out your leadership strengths.

Leadership Compass Results


Your orientation: Action

Your style: Mobilizer

You get things done — fast. You’re eager to take on challenges, and determined to reach your goal. Even the word “no” won’t hold you back. 


Your orientation: Empathy

Your style: Nurturer

You are supportive, intuitive, and ethical. You prefer a collaborative work environment and want to see others succeed.


Your orientation: Future-focused

Your style: Visionary

You’re innovative, creative, and able to see the big picture. You appreciate having access to a lot of information, because it inspires new ideas.


Your orientation: Analysis

Your style: Teacher

You are introspective, practical, and thorough. You rely on data analysis and logistics to make good decisions.

Know Your Shadow Side

Along with the benefits listed above, each orientation on the leadership compass has a shadow side. These characteristics could hold you back, so it’s helpful to be aware of them.


Your need to act and decide may lead you to rush the process, overlook comprehensive strategic planning, or have trouble delegating.


The importance you place on relationships could get in the way of achieving your goals. You may be conflict-averse and have a hard time saying “no.”


Your long-term vision could prevent you from taking action in the present. Your initial enthusiasm may burn out and result in poor follow-through. 


You may get lost in analysis paralysis. Your indecision, which could come across as stubbornness, may prevent you from moving forward.

Collaborating Across Leadership Styles

As someone who is tied between a North and East orientation, I can tell you that my ideation and constant desire to try new things can sometimes be overwhelming for others. Here at Forté, I’ve found success by partnering with people who have South and West styles. 

During the recent Leadership Coach webinar, participants broke into small groups and discussed how to collaborate effectively with people who have different strengths. Among the recommendations that came up:

  • Consider others’ leadership styles when you communicate with them.
  • Listen closely to people whose experiences differ from yours so that you can learn from their perspectives.
  • Recognize each person on the team as a whole person. They’re not just there to help you reach your goal.


Take Charge of Your Future 

For more leadership guidance, consider participating in the Rise Leadership Program. This three-month virtual program is dedicated to helping mid-career women move their careers forward by focusing on their own leadership strengths. Rise is built on the premise that leadership starts from within. Learn from leadership experts and executive coaches as you develop an authentic leadership style that suits your skills and personality. Interested in being part of our next cohort? Apply now! 

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