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The purpose of this article is to show different examples of how a quality professional can exert influence on colleagues and team members, without having direct authority over those participants. This is a frequent challenge since the quality function is often a distinct and specialized role within an organization. In some cases, the independence of the quality role is emphasized by bringing in an external consultant or temporary contract employee.

Managing with authority is often a transactional relationship. By having authority over an employee, the manager can regulate hiring decisions, payment rates, working hours, and other perks and amenities. In long-term career situations, the hiring manager has the authority to recommend candidates for bonus entitlement, promotion or career advancement opportunities, training programs, or other workplace benefits. In exchange for favorable treatment, the employee is inclined to devote their best efforts and full capabilities to the role and organization.

When the employee is directed by someone who does not have direct authority, the transactional exchange is lost. The rational evaluation of immediate costs and benefits must be superseded by different connections, which can emphasize cultural, emotional, or aspirational qualities. These are often the dynamics upon which a quality practitioner must rely. One way to activate these other modes is to emphasize the personal stature of the quality practitioner, relative to those whom they aspire to influence.

Stature could be described as a composite of importance and reputation, based on several traits including capabilities, achievements, proven track records, and capacity to generate positive results. High levels of personal stature could be demonstrated with marks or indicators of prestige, distinction, or status among best-in-class or highly accomplished peers. Consider the choice of a hiking guide in a mountainous area: a physically fit Olympic athlete with familiarity in mountainous terrain would be preferred over a lethargic city-dweller who was unaccustomed to outdoor activities.

Stature is something that means different things to different people and could potentially be a source of confusion and misrepresentation or misunderstanding. For success as an influencer, there must be harmony and alignment across different perceptions and perspectives of individual stature: earned stature, perceived stature, public stature, and obtained stature.

Subscribing to professional social networking sources can be helpful when communicating earned stature, in order to boost the level of public stature needed to be an influential promoter of methods and practices within an organization. However, these representations must be calibrated with each other to avoid misalignment.

A practitioner with an earned stature lower than their perceived stature risks losing credibility by overstating their accomplishments and capabilities. This is why companies conduct background checks to validate the claims and accomplishments. The loss of credibility can be devastating to the influence, as this highlights the lack of integrity.

The disparity between earned stature and public stature can present problems in multiple directions. For example, many internationally trained participants may have a high earned stature which is diminished by being required to work in a language outside of their mother tongue or being so culturally distinctive as to diminish the perceived credibility. Much has been written about the power of instant visual impressions. For example, our idea of airline pilots might align with the tall, athletic, charismatic, commanding presence when a vastly superior alternative might be a highly skilled but physically short and plump introvert.

In contrast, a high public stature that exceeds the earned stature could result in missed expectations. Consider the successful professional athlete who retires and is hired as a team manager, despite not having prior team management experience. There is a presumption that the successful individual athletic abilities are equivalent to the disciplined and intricate challenges of managing a professional team. The gap could lead to a misalignment of skills and duties, unmet expectations, and disappointing results.

The obtained stature represents a formal appointment or position. If the quality practitioner does not have direct authority, the power solely from obtained stature is insufficient to successfully influence personnel and outcomes. Historically, quality has attempted to shift into a gatekeeping or compliance role, using influence from restricting access and approval. This may have short-term utility, but over time, this role becomes something to be avoided or escalated above and past. The influence is lost when the restrictions are bypassed.

The antidote to having a modest obtained stature is to augment and compensate with a higher public stature and earned stature. Being able to visible and consistently demonstrate value from experience and proven results builds trust and confidence. This is often why “tribal elders” in organizations can exert more influence than bureaucrats within the management hierarchy. Consider transportation in winter climates: city-dwelling bureaucrats have less credibility from their offices than a long-term driver who has personally navigated and successfully delivered passengers and freight through storms and inclement weather.

From a personal level, asserting stature is necessary. Perceived stature must be sufficiently robust to absorb the full benefits of earned stature and communicate this effectively to form a cohesive and consistent public stature. A deficit in perceived stature relative to earned and public stature levels could be attributed to humility or modesty, but it may lead to missed opportunities to display expertise and realize successful outcomes.

People respond positively to trust and confidence, and this builds a momentum of successful collaboration. Trust and influence are incremental and can be contagious in either direction. Mentorship and coaching represent specific forms of influence that do not require authority, only positive personal examples, and relevant knowledge bases. The credibility of influence is also related to the acceptance of the references and sources of truth.

To summarize, a quality leader within an organization must be able to exert personal influence without having explicit authority, to realize successful outcomes. The manner of influencing others can be defined and regulated using different types of stature: earned, perceived, public, and obtained. The limits from a modest obtained stature or position (without direct authority) can be enhanced and expanded by addressing and promoting your earned stature, perceived stature, and ultimately your public stature. When these are aligned and in complementary harmony, the influence will emerge and compound over time.