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Munafo Core Values: MCV13 — Cite No Authority Higher Than Your Own    


Cite No Authority Higher Than Your Own

The literal implication is clear, and simple: if you cannot persuade on your own, do not "lean on" the authority of your superior to help make the case.

But it also includes an important aspect of promotion: in order for others to be inspired by you, you must be truly, personally behind whatever it is you are trying to inspire. Don't just go by what others have said about it — make it personal — understand how it has helped you personally, and express it that way. In my life I have observed people speaking in the 2nd person ("You should...") or 3rd person ("He/She says you should...") primarily because they are trying to give a more authoritative impression that might come from speaking in the first ("I say you should..."). In fact, the personal statement is the only one that carries any authority.

Authority; Resentment; Respecting Rank; and Bullying

Cite No Authority Higher Than Your Own is my way of addressing the point on the Code of Honor that says "Earn and Honor Rank". The primary advantages to me of using this core value instead are that it delegates the earning of rank to a separate (and natural or organic) process that comes out as an indirect result of following my other core values, and (more importantly) is applicable in more obvious ways to partnerships, teams and other non-individual entities.

In organized authority structures (such as the "chain of command" in a western company or similar hierarchical organization) the individual manager is often faced with a situation in which they are passing along the orders of a higher authority. Following MCV13 would require them to give a direct order (Submit your status report each Thursday). The less threatening version (The vice president has told me to tell you that you are expected to submit your status report each Thursday) is more accurate but sells out the manager's own authority and thus does not fit MCV13.

If the recipient of the order does not cooperate or appears resentful, it may be because they are not respecting your authority — or it may be that you are abusing your authority.

In order to determine which is the case, consider the following (fairly representative) definition of bullying 1 2:

If these conditions are met, bullying is present and the person in authority is being improper. Note that aggressive negative behavior is usually non-physical. Examples include: spreading lies, or speaking disfavorably behind one's back; unbalanced or unjustified negative criticism; implication or direct offers of quid-pro-quo (blackmail); etc.

If bullying is not present and the orders are not being followed, then there is simply a mismatch of purpose. One or the other person is not serving the organization and perhaps does not belong.

Consentual Authority Structures

If the "higher authority" does not have absolute power (such as power to remove a subordinate from their position) then the Chain of Command becomes the Chain of Communication and Accountability. Each leader is accountable to those they lead, by virtue of the commitment they have made to own their success. The "higher" leaders differ only by having taken on a commitment to work for a larger number of people.

MCV13 for Teams

Relationship Between Authority, Responsibility, and Ownership

As described under ownership, individuals are often expected by others to manifest commitment to something that is of value to the group. In order to succeed in meeting such commitments, the individual usually needs to be commended the authority (or "empowerment") necessary to make the intended task, goal or project happen. The core value Cite No Authority Higher Than Your Own is present in the individual when they manifest responsibility within this ownership-given authority, to the extent necessary to enforce ownership, including anything they may have to do to hold the group accountable for granting them that authority. The core value Cite No Authority Higher Than Your Own is present in the group when they empower the individual by not getting in the way.

When this core value is present:

The team owns (accepts responsibility and accountability for) its own success and/or failure. (+mcv13a)

The team fulfills its responsibilities in supporting a team member executing a role, activity or task that the team has given them ownership of. (+mcv13b)

When this core value is lacking:

The team does not feel responsible or accountable for its success or failure. (-mcv13a)

The team interferes with a member's ownership of a role, activity or task that the team has ostensibly given them ownership of, by preventing it being done in the way the member needs or decides. (-mcv13b)

1 : "Student Reports of Bullying", Results From the 2001 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, US National Center for Education Statistics.

2 : UK National Workforce Bullying Advice Line, "Differences between bullying and management" (web page)


Chain of Command versus Communication and Accountability: Hoffman, 20080613

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