311 - Distributed Authority - John Laurito

In this episode, host John Laurito talks about distributed authority, what it is, and why it can be the biggest bottleneck in an organization. There should be mutual trust in any relationship, whether at work or in personal life. For an organization to do well, leaders should be able to put their faith in their teams’ judgment and provide means to empower individuals. By distributing authority, leaders put power in the hands of those best positioned to find the right solution which can benefit the company.

[0:00] Intro

[0:54] Going viral

[2:20] What is distributed authority?

[7:20] Here’s what happens…

[9:07] A challenge to leaders

[11:07] Outro

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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader. 

John All right, tomorrow’s leaders. How are you? I hope you are doing dandy. I am. I am a day away from going to a rugby tournament in Los Angeles. I am extremely excited about it. If you remember back at LA 100 episodes ago, I did an episode on what makes the All Blacks so great. It’s worth going back and listening to that episode. So I will tell you that was it went is as Skyler said to me, dad your video has gone viral that that video version of that podcast was like swallowed up by the New Zealand, passionate New Zealand, all black fans and went all over the place. It was really, really cool to hear the comments and everything like that. I just did a podcast on what my take is of why the All Blacks are so unbelievably good. Now. I’m not just talking about good. They are so far better than any other team. It is unbelievable. So I’m not going to spoil it. Just go back. Listen, do it again. It’s in the episodes in the two hundreds or something early. Two hundreds I think. But yeah, so I go to, to l.a tomorrow and I spend three days watching two and a half days watching some great rugby. And USA Rugby Sevens Tournament and USA is actually playing the All Blacks. So let’s, let’s hope we bring our A-plus plus plus game. I know the All Blacks will so USA is awesome though I have full confidence that we going to we’re going to perform extremely well. So in any event. 

Okay, today’s topic. Here we go. I had a great podcast with a very successful CEO of a charity, a charity that’s focused on helping organizations or I’m sorry, helping countries and areas of the world that do not have clean water supply, fix that problem. And their organization is doing phenomenal, phenomenal stuff. Stay tuned for that episode that’s going to be coming out not too distant future. But this individual used a phrase that I thought was fantastic and he talked about distributed authority. And I want to just shed some light on this and share some thoughts on this because I truly believe this is one of a small handful of opportunities that most CEOs and leaders that I talk to have truly not ten or 20%. This is 50 plus percent, I truly believe have this issue to some degree, either a very, very large degree, and it’s a massive problem or it’s something that they could get better at. So what has distributed authority? Distribute authority? If you just think about an organization, you know, picture it like a pyramid. You know, let’s think about the one-person U.S. pyramid, because I just did the episode that you might have just listened to, or maybe that’s the next one coming up about me thinking about the top brick in a pyramid. Anyways, so I’ve got a pyramid on my mind, not the negative connotation of a pyramid scheme. 

John I’m not talking about that. But just picture a pyramid or I just picture a triangle top triangle. Forget the pyramid triangle anyways. Okay, so picture a triangle picture that that leader that that’s at the top and that leader the only person that really, really, really has the decision-making ability, they really can’t, you know, they’re the ones that have to be involved in stuff. They’re the ones that really have control of everything. They’re touching every process. They’re involved in so much stuff and the layers below them, so to speak, all have to go up to that senior leader. So everything kind of flows right up to that person at the top of the triangle. All right. That’s not distributed authority. Now, in order for that organization to grow that it will hit a limit. They can’t because they can only grow as far as that leader will really allow them to based on his or her capacity. Right. It’s just physics. You just think about it. There’s just not enough capacity to make decisions and do things and implement things and strategize and be a visionary. You just can’t do all that stuff. So Distributed Authority is really the concept of pushing out all of the decision-making ability all and empowering people throughout the organization to do more and have more autonomy, more independence, and more power and ability to do. The things that make decisions. And I’ve seen organizations like this. Now, I will tell you the risk of this. The risk is that you have a lot of people that are making decisions and maybe making mistakes. There’s a cost. There’s a risk. There’s the risk that not everybody understands and adheres to the core vision and mission of the organization. 

John We’re kind of rowing in all different directions. We’re not all tethered together, so to speak. But a great leader knows how to align people throughout the organization around a very common vision. And when they understand each department in each role, how their role contributes to that overall vision and where we’re headed, then you get a cruise ship and you got zillions of different crew members doing different things. They have a very specific role that’s either keeping that ship afloat, keeping it moving at the right speed, keeping the move in the right direction, making sure passengers are safe, making sure they’re well fed, making sure they’re happy whenever everybody’s got a certain role that all contributes to that overall vision. But if the captain of the ship had to, nobody in that ship could make decisions and they had to wait for the captain to come by and authorize a decision or an action or any single thing that they did. They’d never. It just wouldn’t work. Right. So I see a lot of organizations that still work that way, but distributed authority truly means you’re pushing out the responsibility in decision making and ability, creative ability, everything to people in your organization. That’s what distributed authority is. I’m not saying everybody not saying to every single person in the organization, but to more and more people and leaders throughout the organization. And the more you can do that and the better job you can do that, here’s what’s going to happen. A few things. One is more people can make decisions. When that happens, yes, you have the chance of more bad decisions. But we as leaders make bad decisions. You as a leader make bad decisions as well. And we learn from that and we grow. 

John But number one, when people make decisions, they are empowered, right? They’re empowered to make decisions, to make changes. They grow as a result of that. And because they’re growing and they have this ability, this faith that you’ve put in them, in this confidence you’ve put in them, they also stay with your organization. You know, there’s nothing worse than you lose. And a player and I will tell you, and I’ve repeated a zillion times, there are three things that a person needs to stay in your organization. They need to feel like they’re making an impact. And not just any impact, but the greatest impact they can. They need to feel like they are important and valued, and they also need to feel like they’re growing. If one of those three things is not there, they run the risk and you run the risk of losing them, okay? And they will go somewhere else. It’s just a matter of time. They’ll go somewhere else where they can grow more or take on more or feel more valued or more important. So that’s what a distributed authority does. It’s a beauty of that reign. Great leaders do that. Those people now have a larger ability to make a bigger impact. The organization moves at a faster pace. Truly, there are more potential mistakes, but there’s significantly more progress. Right? Significantly more progress. And then you’re learning from those mistakes. And now we’re making more and more progress. So my challenge to you leaders is to truly think about this. I want you to just step away from this, this podcast, and think through, okay, who in my organization, I was just talking to somebody today who is underutilized. Okay. That’s a dangerous thing for everybody. Nobody wins when somebody is underutilized. 

John This is a talented person that should be and can be doing more in their organization. That’s it. That’s just heading down a bad path, right? That this person can be doing more for the organization. They’re not. They’re getting bored. They’re not making as big of an impact as they know they can. It’s sooner or later before this person starts to look for another opportunity where they can be fully utilized and really tapped into their full potential. That’s how this works, right? So who in your organization might you be underutilized and who should have a little more decision-making ability? Think about your leadership team. Can you give them more authority? Can you empower them more? What can you do? How can you do that? And if you’re not certain, ask them, hey, what things what things can you take control over? What are some things that you look at that you say, Hey, you know what, I really want them to take the reins on this and not have John do it? What is something that’s in my scope that should be in your scope? Ask a. The question is, they’ll give you very honest feedback. Right. So food for thought. Interesting topic. I love that phrase. Distributed authority. Does your organization have distributed authority or is it centralized around one person or two people or three people? In which case your organization is a big bottleneck waiting to happen if it’s not already happened. So I’m here to help. Those are my ideas for today. 

John Hope this is helpful for you as always. Like, share. Subscribe down below. Give a five-star review. We’ll see you next time. I’ll give you a full update on how rugby went. I’ll tell you, hopefully, the USA won. Go USA. All right. Thanks. Bye. 

John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!

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