Even though it is very tempting to do so, please don’t appeal to authority. Not only is it a logical fallacy, it also shuts down any attempt at understanding.
Now, I get it. An appeal to authority in our society is still very powerful. It shortens the time necessary to get a team to agree, and it may appear as though this move will speed implementation.
The classic example of this is the 1961 experiment by Psychologist Stanley Milgram.
The experiment had a test subject enter a room where there was a control panel, and a white coated scientist. The subject was told the panel controlled the amount of electrical shock which was administered to an individual in the next room (played by an actor). The scientist then told the subject (who became the teacher) that it was their job to administer ever increasing shocks to the person (the student) in the other room if the student answered questions wrong. As the test progressed, the screams of the actor could be heard in the other room and many subjects became nervous. However, being assured by the person in the white coat (who represented authority) more than half of the subjects continued administering shocks, even up to a lethal level (having been told previously that amount would kill a person).
These are shocking results (pun intended), and I recognise there are some severe issues with the set up of the experiment and its subsequent explanation as being a demonstration of the “evil” nature of humanity. I am not sure we need an experiment to prove that, but I digress.
The experiment highlights something else I find very interesting. Almost half of the subjects refused to obey the authority. They were unwilling to continue to follow the directions, even though the experimenter appealed to authority, and they walked out.
When you lead by appealing to authority, you create a team that is submissive to authority. One that is less willing to think on their own, less able to explain decisions to others, and less willing to raise legitimate questions.
Now, I have a question for you.
Who would you rather have working as a part of your team? Someone who will blindly follow authority, even when it causes them to cross some major ethical boundaries, or someone who is willing to stand up and ask questions? Even though it may take more time, effort, and a different set of skills to lead the later, that’s who I’d want as a part of my team.
Don’t appeal to authority.
Rather, lead in such a way as you deepen the ability of your team to think, explain, and ask good questions.