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  • Writer's pictureJohn Whitehead

Advocacy not Authority

Updated: May 3, 2023

Over the years I have been blessed to have had a seat at the table of some prominent leaders in various walks of life. They have been political leaders, business leaders, church leaders and leaders in higher education.

In each instance I have had the opportunity to observe, listen and learn.

One thing each of these leaders had in common was they were able to speak from a position of authority. They had earned the right to do so because of the success they had achieved in their specific field.

Interestingly, the ones who had the greatest impression on me were the ones who appeared to lead from a position of “advocacy not authority “.

What impressed me most about these people was, despite their position, they seemed to understand the way to be the most effective leader was to advocate for those in their sphere of influence.

The ones who left a lesser impression were the ones who seemed almost fixated on the authority their position brought to their lives.


I believe, in a lot of cases, the reason is simply insecurity and a need to be acknowledged and appreciated for their achievements. This was usually best seen as the talks they gave almost always centered around themselves and those accomplishments.

In the cases where advocacy seemed to be their motivation, the accomplishments of their team or organizations were at the forefront of their hearts and minds as they talked. This type of leader is secure enough in their position not to need the acknowledgement and affirmation others desire.

Is there anything wrong with wanting to be acknowledged and appreciated for your achievements? Perhaps not, but it is certainly less inspiring than someone who spends most of their time acknowledging and affirming those who have been instrumental in helping them achieve.

You see, an advocate earns the right to wield authority because people believe they care. Whereas an authoritative leader hasn’t necessarily earned anything. They just have the authority of their position, which allows them to impose their will on others.

The reality is that both types of leaders can achieve success. The question is how they measure that success.

For me, success is finding joy in what you do. Leading as an advocate instead of an authority is where this joy can be found.

To lead from a position of “advocacy not authority” is up to us, but the fruit will be seen in the joy found and experienced by those we lead!

Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

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