The Unintended Impact of Positional Authority

Have you ever noticed that people laugh louder when senior leaders make jokes? Or that their ideas and thoughts are taken more seriously?


It’s an interesting dynamic to objectively listen to what senior leaders say and then to watch the impact as their words trickle through their organization. For example, consider the CEO who was showing interest in the work of one of his software engineers and his seemingly harmless question about the user interface set off an unexpected redesign effort. Or, how about the outgoing Senior Director who loves to pontificate. His passion for brainstorming generates ideas that his people confuse with directives. As a result, his team members work on tasks that aren’t aligned¬† with his vision.


The challenge with senior leadership is that it often comes with unexpected influence. And, the unaware, unintentional leader will often trigger a frenzy of activity that ripples through an organization without even knowing it.