Leading Without Authority: How Every One of Us Can Build Trust, Create Candor, Energize Our Teams, and Make a Difference

By Keith Ferrazzi
New York, NY: Penguin Random House (2020)
238 pages.

Reviewed by ROB ALFALAH

I have a business degree. Full-time pastoral ministry is a second career for me, but I still enjoy reading non-fiction books from the secular world on various topics, including leadership and teamwork. An essential contribution to the leadership community and church leadership is explicitly made by Keith Ferrazzi, the bestselling author of Never Eat Alone and founder of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a leadership and teamwork consulting firm.

From the outset, the title intrigued me. What does he mean by “leading without authority?” I automatically assumed it meant not leading in a hierarchical, authoritarian, centralized way. Ferrazzi discusses this concept (in his own way) by quoting a 2016 report that states, “The entire concept of leadership is being radically redefined. The whole notion of ‘positional leadership’—that people become leaders by virtue of their power position—is being challenged” (p. 7). However, leading without authority means so much more. The concept Ferrazzi introduces is co-elevation: “‘going higher’ together” where it “nurtures a generosity of spirit and sense of commitment to our new teammates and our shared mission” (p. 9).

Ferrazzi strongly challenges the notion that because someone is not in a “power position,” they cannot exercise co-elevation leadership. Everyone can learn to lead without [positional] authority by considering the eight “new work” rules for a “new work world” (p. 3); a chapter is aptly named after each rule.

  1. Who’s Your Team;
  2. Accept That It’s All on You;
  3. Earn Permission to Lead;
  4. 4.Create Deeper, Richer, More Collaborative Partnerships;
  5. Co-development;
  6. Praise and Celebrate;
  7. Co-elevate the Tribe; and
  8. Join the Movement.

Ferrazzi shares his own experiences working and coaching in the corporate world and stories of how people implemented some of these rules in their own context. Some were resistant at first but eventually moved forward with the process; others jumped in full steam ahead with the prospect of co-elevation success. In addition to these stories (which really serve as case studies), Ferrazzi shares brief statements from successful leaders in the corporate world who bear witness to the power of co-elevation and the eight rules listed above.

Part of the co-elevation philosophy involves working across corporate “silos” that traditionally keep different teams/departments separated from one another when collaboration would co-elevate each team/department to meet—and even exceed—their goals, elevating the entire organization. This reminds me of a pastor who served a church with quite a few active ministry teams (health, evangelism, men’s/women’s ministries, etc.) and committed leaders to see these ministries succeed. The main problem was that the teams weren’t working or learning to work with each other. When the pastor asked about this and shared some collaborative principles at a board meeting, one of these ministry leaders asked, “So are you saying I need to share my interests and plans with these other teams?” It wasn’t asked negatively but was one of those “aha” moments that helped the ministry leaders realize they haven’t even begun to tap into their full potential in the church and as a church.

Although this book is written primarily with the corporate business world in mind, Ferrazzi states the principles found in this book can help any organization, including “charitable nonprofits” (p. 10). The example I cited earlier is just one way that a church can implement one of these principles. What better place than God’s church (His supposed hands and feet in the community) to implement a co-elevation philosophy where “‘going higher’ together . . . nurtures a generosity of spirit and sense of commitment to our new teammates and our shared mission.” Whatever denomination people find themselves in, there is a need to breakdown the independent “silos” of ministry and collaborate in “radical interdependence” (p. 23) for the elevation of not only the ministries, but the church in the community—all with the goal of lifting the name of Jesus Christ!

One final way that this can work is when you have multiple churches in one metropolitan area. We often become territorial (whether consciously or subconsciously) in serving the community. We are careful about sharing ideas, resources, even members with other churches for fear that it will cause us to lose something that “belongs” to the existing members. We seem similarly territorial when potential new members join a sister church instead of our church based on the work we’ve done. But what if we tore down these ecclesiastical “silos” and learned to co-elevate for kingdom growth without thought to which church reaps the harvest? Christ tells us that regardless of who does the work or what stage of the work, we should all celebrate and rejoice in that success (John 4:36)!

This book meets my hearty approval. It can benefit both local church leaders and the larger corporate body or sisterhood of churches. Within each of the rules listed by Ferrazzi, he provides practices to help fulfill these co-elevation principles. While these should be prayerfully reviewed and adapted to fit your local context, he does a fine job laying out the practices to help you get started. You will not be sorry for adding this book to your library. I’m not.

ROB ALFALAH serves as a pastor in the St. Louis metro area for the Iowa-Missouri Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (USA) and is pursuing a masters in pastoral ministry from Andrews University.

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