Having authority vs. being an authority

A boss has authority. It lets him order people around and often has little to do with his competence. Those who receive the boss’s orders don’t have a choice in the matter. Having authority – authority that is possessed – is enforced.

A person who is an authority has mastered a field. Her mastery earns the respect of the people she leads. Her followers are enrolled in the journey. When you are an authority, you don’t possess it. You embody it.

In a broken system, authority is an end in itself – choice and competence only have supporting roles. In a functioning system, authority evolves naturally as a plot whose lead roles are played by choice and competence.

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