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How to wield authority like an exec

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Does your mind work like an executive’s? When Jodith Allen first stepped into the job of executive assistant, she received a swift lesson in thinking like a manager. Here’s what happened.

One morning, after giving her boss a “signature folder” full of em­­ployee re­­views and purchase or­­ders that needed his signature, he called her into his office.

“My job, he told me, was to make sure that everything that came to his desk was resolved of problems before he saw it,” Allen says. “He pointed out a questionable employee review and a purchase order that had issues.”

Her boss was teaching her to think like a manager.

Lesson  #1:  Look at everything that crosses your desk through your boss’s eyes.

After that lesson, Allen began sending paperwork back to directors for corrections or explanations but with some hesitation. “In my experience so far in my career, secretaries just didn’t do that,” she says. “And I did get pushback from a couple of directors.”

Allen explained, though, that her boss had delegated authority to her and that her job was to make sure it met his standards. Gradually, they came to trust her judgment. Asking a director for a review was better than bothering the boss.

Lesson  #2:  Wield authority with con­­fidence. “You must be able to look them in the eye and defend your status,” Allen says. If you can’t, no one will respect you. “They will work around you, bypass you and undermine you.”

To truly be effective as an executive assistant, the ability to receive delegated authority and wield it is crucial.

— Adapted from “Thinking Like a Manager,” Jodith Allen,

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