What is authority and how is it given? Is it conferred with a degree? Granted with certification? Is it an advanced degree, or a title, or a position that determines authority?
I have several degrees, more than a couple certifications, and I have been given the title of principal of a middle school. But with what kind of authority do I have to lead my teachers, my students or my school?
I will admit I am a rule follower and for the majority of my life I didn’t really question authority. I did what was asked of me because a person in authority asked me to do it, and I didn’t really question that.
But now I find myself in an interesting position. I am in a position of authority, but there are also others who have authority over me. I am constantly making decisions based on interactions with others who have authority over me that also influence my interactions those whom I have authority over.
I argue that authority isn’t something that should simply be given or granted, but rather it is something that should be earned. Authority isn’t a power or a right, but instead it is earned because of your experience, and more importantly, your actions.
A quote from something we read in church today challenges us to:
Live honestly, act courageously and to speak from our wisdom.
Maybe that is what authority is all about.
If we can live honestly, anticipate honesty from others, and make honest decisions about why we do things then I think we gain the power and confidence to exercise authority over others.
Authority is also about acting courageously and making difficult decisions. People in authority need to be strong enough to make difficult decisions, and honest enough to defend why they made those decisions.
Finally authority comes from speaking from our wisdom, our individual, personal wisdom as well as the collective wisdom of those whom we exercise authority over.
I know question and these traits in the people who have authority over me.
Are they being honest? Are their intentions explicit and straightforward?
Are they acting courageously? Are they willing to make and defend difficult decisions? Are they willing to say no to something that isn’t right? And say yes to something that isn’t easy?
Are they speaking from wisdom, both personal and collective wisdom?
And am I doing these things as well?
My teachers should expect honesty in their interactions with me. I try my best to make my intentions honest and straightforward.
I try to act courageously. I challenge the status quo when need be. And I push for the difficult things that I think are important.
And I spend a great deal of time trying to learn the collective wisdom of my school and speak from that wisdom as well as my own.
When we listen, care, and respect those whom we have authority over, trust is built, and trust is the foundation for inspiring others to believe in you, and that is when real authority is developed.