Thoughts on the Power of Authority

Today, an online friend sent me the following message, I assume intended to inspire:

“THE POWER OF AUTHORITY: When we speak, we must speak with authority; when we walk, we must walk with authority; when we showcase our talents, we must showcase with authority; when we lead, we must lead with authority; in every aspect of our being, we must exercise authority. Our authority must be inspiring, respectful, and earned. We must contemplate profound ideas and share the profundity with others. We must exercise self-control and -respect. We must take charge of our present and future situations. We have a world to impact.”

For a number of reasons, this seemed to rub me the wrong way. Here’s how I responded to the message:

I respectfully must disagree. Responsibility comes before authority. We must do all these things with responsibility to prove that we are capable of shouldering the authority. One of those responsibilities is to defer to those with greater authority so that they can fulfill their responsibilities.

To be in authority without first having taken responsibility is to be a dictator.

But authority means more than simply to be “in control”. It also infers that we are “in the know” — that we are an authority means that we have devoted significant study to a thing and know it, understand it.

To claim to be an authority without first having studied the subject, is to be pompous (and ultimately a fool).

Even after years of study (and having been considered somewhat of an authority on the subject by myself as well as others), I would exercise more than self-control and self-respect, particularly when deciding which ideas were profound and whether or not any resulting “profundity” needed sharing. First, I think I would exercise self-examination, self-doubt and not a little caution. At the very least, all that I am sure of is that I am an authority on myself. Not on speaking, walking, showcasing, leading. Certainly not on being inspiring. I know about respectful. But who is to judge what measure is used to describe “earning” or “earned”?

There is only a need to take charge if the problem at hand requires the expertise, experience and skill that you possess. For example, if my present situation required the fixing of a faucet, I would call a plumber. But if that plumber needed a poem written, or music at their wedding, I might assume leadership. That’s the beauty of power-with, or egalitarian social structure. Like a circle, there is no head. The point on the line where direction is focused is based on the needs of the circle, not any individual — and the individuals who are most qualified and capable to address the issue at hand are those behind which I, who may be the “leader” at other times”, willingly follow.

We have a world to impact? Who are we to think it is OURS to change?

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