Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you… Matthew 20:25-26 (NIV 1984)
Were you to ask many people today under the age of 30 how they view authority, the overwhelming response is negative. And with good reason. Throughout their lives those authorities in whom they put their trust have disappointed, hurt, or taken advantage of them. No wonder some younger leader stated, “I’m trying to learn how to lead without authority.”
Leaders must exercise authority to lead. Leadership authority is morally neutral – it’s not good, bad, or purple. It’s how you exercise your authority that makes it beneficial or tyrannical.
A leader has two types of authority – positional and personal. Positional authority comes with the title or role one has. It is vested with the responsibility of leading. It can be used to bless others – making exceptions to rules or policies, providing resources not available to those they lead, creating tone and environment, and solving problems others can’t solve. Negatively it can be used to dominate (lord it over), micro-manage, control, and stifle initiative of those we lead.
The second type of authority is personal authority. It is not linked to one’s position and allows great influence in the lives of others, whether we have line responsibility for them or not. You’ve seen this in action in groups when someone with this type of authority speaks, all turn and pay close attention. Personal authority is given voluntarily to others based upon their perceived character (particularly wisdom and integrity) and competency in particular areas.
Personal authority allows you to speak truth to others, guide, counsel, mentor, and coach them as they trust your influence. Negatively it can be used to manipulate others, promote yourself, or seek your purposes instead of what’s best for others. Personal authority is the greatest authority one can have for it lasts beyond any position one may have.
Positional authority comes instantly when one assumes the title of leader. Personal authority is built over time as one interacts with others and demonstrates Christlike character and competency. It’s like making deposits into the personal authority bank account. Unfortunately, one can also make major withdrawals from this account by demonstrating foolishness, poor choices, or sinful behavior.
Authority – you must have it to lead well in the Kingdom. Don’t shy away for exercising your authority. Just be sure that you’re using it for advancing the King’s purposes and not your own!