How to Lead When You Lack The Authority

I just finished reading leadership coach Keith Ferrazzi’s new book Leading Without Authority. I was really excited about this book because Ferrazzi’s previous book Never Eat Alone is an absolute gem. Also, the title of the book speaks to my heart as a product manager.

The thesis of the book is to “co-elevate” everyone who plays a role in the success of your project. Instead of relying on the traditional team structure at work, Ferrazzi advised us to focus on the key influencers who can help you achieve your goal.

To mobilize the known (and unknown) allies at work, you have to build relationships with people inside and outside the company.


Measure Relationships Action Plan

The concept of Relationships Action Plan (RAP) is first introduced in Never Eat Alone. At work, Ferrazzi recommended creating a RAP in the following steps:

  1. For each project, identify 5 to 10 key people and the goal for this RAP.
  2. In addition to the core team, identify key influencers who have the knowledge to help with your project.
  3. Assign a number to each team member based on the following relationships: 0 for respectful co-existence, +1 for necessary collaboration, -1 for stressful resistance, -2 for strained resentment, +2 for win-win co-elevation
  4. Once you have the number, share the score with the people you are working with regularly.

Helpful Tips on Relationships Building

For folks with a neutral (0) or slightly negative (-1) score, you can say:

I’ve been keeping track of what I feel are the most critical relationships in this project. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t really engaged you and your peers as much as I should have. That’s my bad. I’d love to work together with you to remedy that.

For folks who got the score of -2, share the grateful things you have for them. We often blame others for faulty relationships (according to the fundamental attribution error) and fail to recognize our parts in it. To fix this error, simply ask yourself: What’s my part in it? and apologize. Once you give up being right and authentically own your part, you will receive the power to change a strained relationship.

Earn Permission to Influence

No matter who you are, you should never assume that you have the permission to coach. Therefore, you should always ask before delivering any candid feedback.

By requesting and explaining why you are offering the feedback, you will not only gain trust but also express your commitment to their growth.

Helpful Tips on Asking for Permission:

1. Start with why you want to give feedback.

I have thoughts I’d like to pass on that I thought you may find it beneficial.

2. Share how you have benefited from receiving feedback in the past

Over the years, I’ve benefited from some incredible insights and advice not just from my managers but from my peers. Those feedback has been particularly helpful and gave me the support and confidence to grow.

3. Close with an open offer. It is important to let the receiver has complete control.

If you are open to it, I’d like to offer the same kind of support. If not, I also completely understand. Let me know.

Helpful Tips on Delivering Feedback:

  1. Lead them to discovery: Just like coaching, your role is not to give the answer but to ask good questions. Use What and How questions to engage their thoughts. For example: “This is an opportunity to … What do you think?
  2. Provide some concrete suggestions in a conciliatory tone: “What I really appreciate our partnership last quarter is A, B, C. Next quarter, I’d like to propose A, B, C.
  3. Don’t be too attached to the outcome: Once you give out the feedback, the feedback has “shipped.” It’s up to them to decide whether they want to implement or ignore it. Know that you have done your part.

Ask for Feedback

This is so important for early-career folks because these signals would accelerate your growth. However, people are often too nice to give you critical feedback. Here’s how you can seek feedback:

1.Reach out with a candid request:

I’d really appreciate your absolutely candid feedback on how we can go even higher. If you were me, where would you go with this. What do you think we are missing? I’m serious, please don’t hold back.

2. If you didn’t hear back, follow up with a general message:

Excited for your kick-butt feedback. Thanks in advance for your critical insights.

Praise and Celebrate

Celebrate success and failures. And spend 2min to send a thank-you email every day.


That’s a wrap of the top learnings from this book. Hope you enjoy 🙂

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