To work somewhere, and to work somewhere well, you need to be competent. Not only that, you need to be competent in many fields. For this reason, it’s important to know exactly how to be competent. If you’re unable to do either of those things, you will become vastly outdated in your skillset, and become less sharp in your duties. To a worthy employer, you are a human being with a set of needs and desires to do your job well. But you are also a tool. In order to stay competitive in your industry, you should keep this in mind. View yourself as your main asset, and you’ll take the responsibilities you need to progress seriously enough as to make the whole process worthwhile.

Authority is certainly validated by competence, but unfortunately it’s not always connected with it. We’ve all had that boss who simply is less capable at their job than you are. One who rarely looks at the overall mood of the team they command, instead pushing for results with an iron fist no matter the emotional or motivational human cost.

If you’re a business leader, balancing authority with competence is the most important thing to do. It will be a daily tightrope act, and you will make mistakes from time to time. Overall though, success in this field will help you develop a more capable and active presence as a leader.

Here’s why:


While authority does not necessarily guarantee competence, competence almost always guarantees a form of authority. Taken from this angle, the process begins to work well. Both sides to begin to feed into one another. For example, if you’re competent at what you do, then those under you will understand that and naturally seek your help and advice.

They will be more willing to take your word at face value, and operate under that direction. If you ask of them something they are not comfortable with, or do not believe to be true, they will use your validity in your competence as a guide for how much they should trust you. If they know you’re great at your job and professional insight, they will be much more likely to see your instruction as favorable, and maybe even helpful to their professional development.

The workplace is of course a cooperation of ambitions leading to a certain result from day to day. It’s also a big melting pot of personal perceptions. If you’re able to backup your authority with this competence, those perceptions are much less likely to turn against you in any way, allowing for a much more relaxing and collaborative working relationship with your team.

Comfort Zone

Even if you’re the most competent in a firm, you will also have your weaknesses. This is why businesses are made up of several departments. It’s not easy to assume someone very practical and skilled in human resources will make an excellent accountant or salesman. The diversifying of roles allows people to become specialized in certain ways. This allows for greater effectiveness towards your goals.

Even as a leader, you will have your weak spots. However, than doesn’t mean competence is negated fully here. If you’re great at your job, you have certainly mastered a set of skills which allows you to be good at your job. These include staying updated and aware, being able to view and challenge your weak spots, and communicating well with a team. These skills can translate well into collaborating with teams that have strengths in areas you don’t. You’ll be quicker to contribute to the conversation effectively by first paying your dues by listening. Your mature work ethic will look for solutions to problems you are currently facing, and will generally help you to have a much more successful time at the helm of your operation.

This is important when you’re collaborating with teams that need to know exactly your requirements. For example, working with a digital marketing team and conveying precisely your intent and how it should be achieved can give you a 1:1 replication of your desired intention and outcome. This means that the original integrity behind the understanding of your product will be translated creatively. This takes equal parts authority and competence, because sometimes you simply must stand behind your ideas, even if being advised against them.


For someone who isn’t a project manager or leader, it’s no less important to refine competence. Natural leaders can often be found throughout all areas of the professional space. A janitor (as in a solitary worker) can be a natural leader, but out of being perfectly content in his job or unaware of other roles he could take on might not express that.

If you work in a team, you’ll find that competence takes on an added authority all by itself. Putting forth your ideas with confidence, tailoring them to the needs of the project, and generally becoming more adept at showing your hand at the right times takes a skillful eye. You may not tell anyone what to do, but authority is being expressed here.

This will help you become a likely candidate for promotion. If you’re looking to expand your professional repertoire, looking how to improve yourself instead of gaming the system should be your first priority.


When you have mastered your own personal ability to balance competence and authority, you will find that you can see this skill in other people. For some, it might not be as refined. Some people will have a better time working on their own projects well, but struggle to put themselves out their despite how much of an advantage they have. These are the people you should celebrate, and bring to the top. Authority can be taught, but competence is often a personal and autonomous skill. Conversely, employees who speak loudly, can game the system and generally know their way around with a silver tongue might not be the best or most competent employee for the role. That means when promotional season comes around, you will be much more adept at finding the correct candidate.

In conclusion, competence and authority do meet, but the first certainly influences the second. To become a better worker in 2018, try to set your priorities accordingly.