Leadership Skills: 4 actionable tips to quickly gain authority


Authority is nothing else but negotiation: you negotiate with your project team their willingness to be lead by you.

This means two things:

  1. In Project Management, Authority is a result, not a given;
  2. Your Project Team decide whether to give you authority, you can do your best to influence said decision, but you have no final say in it.

Therefore, a good project management skill is to be able to gain authority by influencing your Project Team’s choice on who to grant authority to.

And with the right tools, however, authority is something you build, gain and maintain.

In this post, I will show you 4 easily actionable techniques you can use to build your Project Manager authority right now.



One has Authority until he’s forced to exert it” (Corto Maltese)

Granted, that quote is from a comic book, but it hits the nail on the head.

Do you like working with a sociopath?

Exactly, neither do your teammates.

Just as much as employers would rather hire people they could be friends with, people are more willing to work with project managers they could go have a beer with after work.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Being likeable will possibly have no direct effect in your project’s outcome.


it will dramatically improve your ability, as a leader, to influence the flow of the project and to gain acceptance of your decisions from your project team’s side.

Of course, being likeable is not easy for everyone.

Some people have it natural, some others can learn it.

NOBODY, though is unable to be likeable.

So if you’re one of the project managers that could use a bump, try this, starting tomorrow:

  1. Smile
  2. Make a note for each person in your project team of his: interests, habits, fears.
  3. In the next conversation you have with , casually address one of those points
  4. Carry on the conversation for as long as he or she is willing to talk.

Outcome 1: you truly and deeply connect with your teammate on a topic that he or she cares about;

Outcome 2: you fail, but are perceived as making an effort to connect to your teammate.

Does that really seem so daunting?

Even the worst case scenario will have brought you something!


Serving and reciprocity

A project manager and his team are there for the same reason with respect to each other: they need to make each other’s life easier, while trying to attain a goal.

Who do you like best in your project team?

The team member that slacks off or the one that works the hardest and gets you results?

I thought so.

Then, don’t be surprised if the opposite is also true: project employees tend to like more the project manager who is able to make their life easier.

In practice, what does should you do?

For example, you could prepare your project team’s job for how you want it done, instead of asking for something and telling them to correct it when it’s not done as you want it.

Or you could act as a bridge to higher levels: in dealing with whoever is above you, have your project team’s back and let them know you do.

They will do the same for you.

By being granted unrequested acts of kindness (e.g. laying out the work for them), they will feel happy to do the same for you. This is a basic psyichological effect called reciprocity.

Serving (acting kindly) leverages reciprocity in your project team.

Working this way will also bridge to a second important psychological project management skill: the Franklin Effect.


Project Management Skills - Authority


The Franklin Project Loop

Famously linked to Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin effect is nothing else but: “Have someone do you a favour, and in the future, they will be happy to do more favours to you than they would be if you had done a favour to them“.

In Project Management, this is fully applicable.

Not only will the make your project manager’s life easier, it will also affect the quality of the project’s outcome.

You have already established how serving your project team will, in turn, make them more interested and willing to serve you back – i.e. do a good job.

The shift here is: have your team be willing to do a good job as a favour to you not because you have done a favour to them (e.g. laying out the work for them), but because they have already done a favour to you in the past.

This is what I call the Franklin Project Loop.

If you can manage to request a task to your project team by phrasing it as a favour, and have them do it for you, then you can be sure they will be more willing to follow up with more favours next time.

As you can see, if you leverage the Fanklin Project Loop enough and embed it in your project management skills, you will have teammates that will be completely devoted to your cause (i.e. the project results) and that are willing to accept your leadership better.

As you can see, this is an invaluable project management skill to have.

But it is also one of the most difficult ones to attain.

There are two caveats to this project management skill:

  1. Do not abuse it;
  2. Make sure your team is ready


Do not abuse the Franklin Project Loop

Your team is not stupid, and neither are you, my dear reader.

By now you have probably commented in your head “hold on, this is borderline manipulation, this is not project management skills

And you are right: if you abuse this technique, you will be a manipulator, and your team will see through your game and call you out on it, refusing to do better work and ultimately destroying all you have tried to build.

What is worse, they will probably despise you – so be careful.

This technique is extremely powerful, but also very delicate.

Make sure your project team is ready

The Franklin Project Loop is one of the advanced project management skills.

To initiate it, you need to be able to ask your team a favour, and they need to be willing to do it.

If they are not, work on reciprocity a bit more before hoping to get the Franklin Project Loop started.

As a matter of fact, you should never fully stop working on reciprocity, and use it in parallel to the Franklin Project Loop.


Work, and show it

There is no way of getting around it.

You can’t lead by example if you don’t know what you are doing.

So, as far as project management skills go, showing that you are good at your job will take you a long way.

There are no shortcuts to becoming technically skilled in anything, just hard, hard work.

What can also take you a long way in being granted authority by your team is not only working on your project, but showing your project team that you are working as hard as them, if not more.

Remember when we mentioned likeability?

Now, take these two situations:

  1. In Project A, the Project Manager is the best one on the field, knows every single applicable technique and is directing his team to do all the work, which he then corrects;
  2. In Project B, the Project Manager is very good, though not excellent, and he is the first one to show up on the job, lays down the work for all his team, consults them when he has doubts, is the last one to leave the office, is reachable 24/7 and works with his team on the creation of the best strategy they can get with their skill pool.

Now ask yourself: which team would you like to be on: project A or project B?

Regardless of your technical skills, being human does not make you any less authoritative.

Whereas Project A’s manager comes in the team with a “given” authority (“he is the best one in the field”) Project B’s manager comes in with work, to have authority granted by his team.

And as we said in the beginning, Authority in Project Management is nothing else but Negotiation.

So, according to this, whose team do you think will have their project manager’s back in the end? A or B?


Now it’s your turn:

Tell me: what technique do you want to use first?

Comment below something like:

“I’m following a project for______ and I will use _____ to gain authority”

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below right now.


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