On Authority

As I have been in the process of editing hours of interview footage, I have come across a very potent and powerful idea regarding two differing types of authority:

  • Conversational Authority
  • Informational Authority

With conversational authority, story is paramount to an acceptance of a particular message. Specifically, how a person tells their story, how they communicate the triumphs and challenges (authenticity and transparency), the tone they use (humility versus arrogance) and the role of others in their life. These three areas of storytelling all speak to the level of authority that person potentially has with others.

Conversely, informational authority is built around knowledge and a belief that information, facts and statistics is what people want or need. The attitude that typically comes across with informational authority is that I have something you don’t and I’m going to tell you the raw data so that you can process and analyze it yourself. Or in a much shorter description, unintentional arrogance.

While there are places in speaking and storytelling for both areas of authority, I think that most people are more receptive when it comes to hearing about the impact of transformational stories.

I’m going to keep looking at these two ideas of authority, but for now, I’m going to pursue a very open and conversational level of authority, because in my mind, that has the greatest potential for empowering and leading people to change.


One reply on “On Authority”

Stephen Denning’s Book “The Secret Language of Leadership” is all about using storytelling (Narrative) to create change in an organization. He makes a pretty good case for narrative being a better catalyst for change than rational arguments. I’d recommend it if you haven’t already read it.

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