Assumed Leadership: Why Better Leaders Don’t Seek Permission!

Assumed Leaders Are Better Leders

Finding and developing the leadership talent required to navigate an increasingly complex and demanding business environment never seems to get any easier.

Despite that, there’s no doubt that many great and gifted candidates exist out there; and one of the saddest tragedies of all is to fail to recognize this talent, especially when it’s hiding away unnoticed within your own organization.

To meet this challenge, a new approach to recruitment and training is being developed — an approach that seeks, fundamentally, to empower prospective leadership candidates to assume leadership roles within their workplace outside of, or in parallel to, any formal or procedural recognition of such a position.

This model of leadership promotion attempts to democratize and distribute management potential in such a way that those with the capacity and skills to take on these roles are able to do so, unencumbered by the lengthy and, at times, needlessly bureaucratic HR filters that can stifle the flourishing of capable employees.

One such provider of development training packages is the U.K.-founded Common Purpose organization. In the words of Julia Middleton, Common Purpose’s Chief Executive, the company seeks to equip individuals with the ability to “lead beyond authority.” But what does this mean in practice, and how can you implement this ethos into the structure of your own business operation?

Categories of Influence

The first paradigm to grapple with when it comes to liberating leadership talent is to recognize that your employees, both those in management and those at staff level, operate in what can be thought of as circles of authority. These are:

The Inner Circle: Typified as situations where the individual exercises often large amounts of personal authority within the company hierarchy.

The Outer Circle: Intra-organizational authority, which is normally substantially less than in the Inner Circle.

The Circle of Society: Everything outside of the Inner and Outer Circles, where actions are mandated through civil and cultural norms, and authority is not normally a part of relational activity.


The dilemma that these circles of authority present is that success in one sphere of influence does not necessarily translate into success in another. This is highly problematic in a world in which globalization is ascendant and traditional hierarchies within the work-space are reforming or becoming completely obsolete.

Breaking the Boundaries

To effectively initiate change in your organization — and the wider world at large — it means dissolving the barriers between these spheres of influence and becoming the vanguard of leadership that your assumed authority demands.

This breaking of boundaries can be achieved in many ways. Cultivating a workforce with individuals that are passionate about their mission, courageous in their drive to see change and able to reflect on their own source of power — whether it be down to their personal qualities, the networks they’ve created or the colleagues they surround themselves with — are all valid ways of doing this.

One real-world example of this approach is the role of “brand ambassador,” and the world-famous drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola has its own Coca-Cola Enterprises Ambassador program.

Empowering workers to transcend their own Inner Circle of responsibilities, the initiative allows them to take their message into the community — the Outer Circle, if you will — and engage with customers, would-be-customers and essentially anyone who’s willing to hear their message on a one-to-one basis. Confidence in the scheme is high, and reports suggest that trust in the brand “radiates to the outside world” through its outreach and educational endeavors.


If you think this way of working would suit your organization and you’d like to apply the principles of assumed authority to your own business, visit us at A Better Leader today to find out how to grow great leaders!

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