3 Elements of Legitimacy in Leadership

Cartman Respect My Authority 05272016Whether as an employee or as a strategy advisor and marketing services contractor, I’ve worked for my fair share of bosses over the years.  Most have been good, hard-working people striving to do better bit by bit.  Alas, I’ve also worked for a tyrant or two – that strange blend of micro-management, paranoia, loose cannon, and deer-in-headlights fear.  Luckily, I’ve also worked for a couple of true leaders.  There are many facets involved in what makes a great leader, and much has been and will continue to be written about leadership qualities.  In this quick read, I want to share the three elements of legitimacy in leadership.

Currently, I’m finishing up David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell. In it, he writes…

When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters – first and foremost – how they behave.  This is called the “principle of legitimacy”, and legitimacy is based on three things.

First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice – that if they speak up, they will be heard.

Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.

And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.

While the preceding passage was speaking about rule aBlog Contact Me button 05272016nd order, it is also applicable to marketing and sales management. Are you adhering to the “principle of legitimacy” in leading your teams?  Ensure not just that employees are heard, but that they know it’s part of their duty to speak up.  Be consistent with policies, procedures, and their enforcement.  When rules change, as they often do, make sure your teams understand why.  And of course, be as fair as possible.  In the dental industry where we often have people responsible for both Marketing and Sales, performance metrics may be different, but we need to strive to make sure that treatment of personnel isn’t.  Easy to say, but often difficult to do.  Legitimacy in leadership is an important concept, and one which will, if lived by an organization, yield rewards through improved communication and team morale.

Bosses, leaders, and recovering tyrants out there, I know it’s hard.  As you enter the trenches every day, try to keep these three elements in mind.  They may help you bring legitimacy to your directives and propel you onward in your quest to become the best leader you can be.

Facing marketing and sales strategy challenges? Need a partner with an outside perspective? An advisor by your side may be just what you need. Let’s talk.


About jmichaeldunn

A self-proclaimed "dental geek", I am passionate about the dental industry, oral health, and dental technology marketing. I have spent the last decade in various marketing capacities for dental technology companies. I enjoy talking about dental marketing with just about anyone and helping companies grow through developing innovative and integrated marketing communications campaigns.
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