Articles

Power By Permission

February 26, 2018 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

For command to happen, there has to be an acceptance of command. For authority to be exercised by those in authority, there has to be willing submission by those over whom the authorities is being exercised.

This is true of those who govern, at least in a mature democracy. As the saying goes “the queen rules by the grace of God but the president only leads by the grace of the people”.

It is equally true of other authority figures, be they religious leaders, police and army officers, doctors, parents, teachers, managers and even sports coaches. For anyone of them to perform their role, to actually do their job, requires in the first instance the consent of those in their charge for them doing so.

Effective policing for example is only possible once the general population has given its consent to being policed. When this is the case, police come to the scene of the crime because people have called them there. The use of force by the police, if they perceive that the situation requires it, is accepted.

People will not obstruct the police when performing their policing tasks, nor will they resort to any other form of protection. Members of the community will work with the police to ensure that criminals are apprehended rather than take the law into their own hands.

Of the two parties in the relationship, it is the citizens, not the police, who ultimately decide to what extent they are policed.

Those in command roles in the workplace similarly can only lead if and when they have mobilised the consent of the majority of employees to their doing so.

In absolute reality, it is the people who determine to what degree they are prepared to be led. Ultimately the extent to which employees are truly committed to the goals and objectives of the enterprise sits in their hands, not management’s.

Wendy Lambourne
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