How to exude authority

Written by Kevin Murray CMgr CCMI Wednesday 24 March 2021
You may think you’re presenting yourself well – but check these 11 ways you might be destroying people’s confidence in you
Person using hands to express themselves in a meeting

How you hold yourself matters. As a leader, you must be perceived as having the ability to affect the world around you. Project too much power and you could be seen as overbearing, dogmatic and potentially toxic; too little and you will be seen as inconsequential.

Personal power is about having just enough authority to command people's attention and encourage a belief in you. Leaders who are seen as powerful and influential exude confidence and are energetic and positive. They know that confidence is contagious. They are willing to lead and make things happen. They are poised and aware of their body language. They are acutely aware of the signals that they send in their non-verbal communication. They are always dressed appropriately and well turned out.

They are determined, and it shows – but they are not stubborn and obstinate. They have high standards and always believe those standards can be achieved. They are optimists. And they are prepared to demonstrate their intelligence, but not flaunt it.

However, some managers can sometimes behave in ways that destroy their personal power and make it difficult to lead.

On the basis that knowing what not to do can be just as helpful as knowing what's right, I offer the following checklist to help you be more aware of the bad behaviours that will make you disliked, ineffective and even likely soon to be fired:

  1. A love of politics destroys relationships. Bad managers love politics, suck up to their own bosses and especially favour those who suck up to them.
  2. Using fear and bureaucracy as managerial tools. Poor managers want employees to feel lucky that they've got a job and always hand over assignments with the threat that if it isn't delivered the way they would like it, there will be highly negative consequences. They never consider liberating people to have more autonomy. It’s my way or the highway’, they say. They use disciplinary measures when simply communicating with an employee would get the desired result. Such fear-based management may get short-term results but is simply unsustainable.
  3. Making promises to employees, and then breaking them. Even if you have the intention to do something but then forget, this will result in a lack of trust from employees.
  4. Riding authority for all it's worth. Poor managers expect others to serve them and serve their egos. They'll never roll their sleeves up and will ensure that others do the jobs that they are no longer willing to do themselves. Humble leaders are often out in front, leading by doing and by example.
  5. Bad bosses try to promote themselves at the cost of the team. They always play for themselves, at every opportunity, and take credit for others' work.
  6. Not worrying about standards. This also spills over into not caring about quality or delivering projects on time.
  7. Never apologising, and never accepting responsibility for mistakes. With bad managers, it will always be someone else's fault.
  8. As for personal development, learning is for losers. And never learn from mistakes, because you don’t make them.
  9. Constantly bragging about your exploits and so-called achievements. Also, constantly demonstrating high intellect, thus belittling and demeaning those who follow you.
  10. Panicking under pressure, and letting it show. Bad managers rush around and overreact to even the smallest problems, often causing despair and disdain in equal measure.
  11. Being negative about their own bosses. By blaming them for everything that's wrong about the organisation, these bad bosses never accept that they have the ability to change anything themselves.

According to CMI research, as many as four out of five managers in the UK are accidental managers – those promoted to their role without adequate training. In the UK alone, that’s an estimated 2.4 million bosses. Imagine how many employees that affects? According to one estimate, less than half of all employees are satisfied with their manager.. How many of them are feeling disengaged and demotivated? This brings with it a massive cost in lost productivity.

By becoming a Chartered Manager, you’ll join a community of high performing professional managers at the top of their game who are self-aware and skills-focused, delivering real value for their business. Start your journey to being a better manager today.

This is the second in a special series of articles by author and leadership expert Kevin Murray CMgr CCMI, in which he’ll examine some of the behaviours that lead to highly demotivated teams. This article is drawn from research he did for his new book Charismatic Leadership: The skills you can learn to motivate high performance in others (published by Kogan Page). CMI members can save 20% on this book with the code CMI20.

Other articles in the series:

Don’t miss out - get notified of new content

Sign-up to become a Friend of CMI to recieve our free newsletter for a regular round-up of our latest insight and guidance.

CMI members always see more. For the widest selection of content, including CPD tools and multimedia resources, check out how to get involved with CMI membership.