The Five Powers of Permission

Old styles of leadership are about giving permission to supplicants. Followers seek permission. It’s an “I/you” rather than “we” dynamic. Leaders have power while followers ask.

I/you leadership is disengaging and disempowering.

Leaders ask permission:

Successful leaders do more than give permission, they get it. Permission answers the question, “Is it ok with you if … ?”

Five Powers of Permission:

  1.  “May I …” builds trust.
  2. Would it be ok if …” shares power.
  3. Do you mind if …” equalizes social status.
  4. Could we discuss…” prevents stagnation. Permission moves the agenda forward when topics are awkward.
  5. “Is it ok with you, if…” engages.

Permission opens doors, protects relationships, and prevents stagnation.

Ask permission to:

  1. Bring up uncomfortable topics. Set a date for the conversation.
  2. Explore progress.
  3. Correct. “May I …”
  4. Challenge.
  5. Give feedback.
  6. Say what you see. “Is it ok if I share something I see …”

Four responses to NO:

When permission isn’t granted? Ask:

  1. How business-critical is the topic?
  2. Is there a deeper issue to address?
  3. Can you let it go?
  4. Must you address it, regardless?

When topics are mission critical, say, “We need to talk about this soon.”

Just a courtesy:

Isn’t asking permission just social courtesy? Yes, sometimes it is. But, social courtesies smooth and protect. Perhaps you prefer to be discourteous and abrasive?

Four reasons leaders don’t ask permission:

  1. Arrogance. It’s too humbling to ask and too easy to tell.
  2. Fear of seeming weak.
  3. Fear of losing power.
  4. Authoritarian rather than relational leadership styles.

What does permission-leadership look like in your world?

What are the pros and cons of permission-leadership?