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Leading with Authority: The Preconditions for Teamwork and Stakeholder Confidence

An authoritative occupation is a professional enterprise that people depend on for their overall well-being, quality of life, or even duration of life.

In the modern era, authoritative occupations are often intellectually, technically, and ethically demanding, requiring high levels of expertise to earn and retain the confidence of the public, clients, or other consequential stakeholders.

Examples of authoritative occupations include law enforcement, forensic science, medicine, airport operations, law practice, engineering, banking, architecture, and higher education, to name just a few.

To be a leader in an authoritative occupation requires skills and personal traits that are more evolved than what might be necessary in other kinds of professions. The reason for this is that the pressure of being entrusted with the health, safety, or well-being of others can create cultural dynamics that impair the ability of team members to do their jobs well.

In my years as an executive leadership coach specializing in authoritative occupations, I’ve come to sense that there is a singular ingredient that all successful leaders seem to have that enable them to meet their responsibilities. In the absence of this one ingredient, all potential for the successful execution of leadership becomes entirely disabled. 

But it wasn’t until the writing and editing of my 4th book, The New Superior – A Better Way to Be the One in Charge, when this singular ingredient became evident to me, at least to the point that I could begin to explain what it was. And I can say with the utmost confidence that this one ingredient is the difference maker in one’s attempt to meet the responsibilities of authoritative leadership with maximum effectiveness and distinction.

Public trustability is the real or subjective measure of our willingness to trust a leader with our own well-being or quality of life, assuming we could somehow witness for ourselves the leader’s overall patterns of behavior, decision-making, and execution.  Let me explain what I mean by that.

For example, if you knew that your personal safety and the security of your friends and family were dependent on the leadership abilities of a particular police commander, would you still want that commander in charge of your local police department after secretly observing how that commander treats his employees behind closed doors, how he gives orders and directions, how he develops and motivates talent, and the impact he has on the culture of the department? 

What about the operating room of a hospital? Would you want your child to have major surgery there if you could somehow know exactly how the surgeon treats nurses an other support personnel?

In other words, if you knew the whole truth about the leaders you rely on, would you still be willing to place your trust in their hands?

Public trustability is more than just a quality that all highly effective leaders possess, it is an ideal to strive for, a commitment to conducting oneself with honor and professionalism all the time – as if the eyes of your stakeholders are watching all the time

In my judgement, among the worst things that can happen to a team is for its members to witness their leader behaving and functioning in a way that any reasonably informed person would find offensive, incompetent, or embarrassing. But it happens all the time, and the result is a chronic exhausting of the team’s precious energy on coping with dysfunction rather than thriving under the support and guidance of a highly effectively leader.

This principle of public trustability invites a thought-provoking question that I ask my clients from time to time, one that leaders should ask themselves as often as possible: How would I conduct myself if the people who depend most on my effectiveness were secretly watching me? 

Knowing the answer to that question is the first step toward becoming a leader people can trust when everything’s on the line. Putting it into action is what eventually changes our world for the better.  JMC

John M. Collins is an executive trust coach at Critical Victories in Southfield, Michigan. He specializes in supporting clients in authoritative, high-stakes occupations requiring high levels of expertise to earn and retain the trust of the public or other consequential stakeholders. John shares some of his unique philosophies and insights on high-stakes leadership in his 2022 book, THE NEW SUPERIOR – A BETTER WAY TO BE THE ONE IN CHARGE (, available in hardcover and audio. 

John works with people, teams, and organizations across the United States and oversees. If you are serious about expanding your leadership effectiveness, click below to request a free client strategy call:

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