Leading Without Authority Summary

Leading Without Authority by Keith Ferrazzi is a book about a concept called co-elevating. Co-elevation describes rich interpersonal relationships of continuous feedback. Keith suggests eight rules to apply to help you co-elevate.

The eight rules are:

  • Who’s On Your Team?
  • Accept That it’s All On You
  • Earn Permission to Lead
  • Create Deeper, Richer, More Collaborative Relationships
  • Co-Development
  • Praise and Celebrate
  • Co-Elevate the Tribe
  • Join the Movement

In this summary, I will touch on some of the rules that stood out to me from the book.

Reach Out to Others That Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

Keith recommends using a tool called a relationship action plan that he developed when working at Deloitte. Maintain a list of 5 to 10 people essential for the success of a mission or project. Score the relationship on a spectrum between -2 Resentment and 2 Co-Elevation. Rank improving the relationships with those most impactful to the project. Be an owner and show your proactiveness to others. It is unlikely that someone else will reach out first. Keith states that if you want to be a high integrity leader then, “failing to speak up is an abdication of your responsibility.” Do whatever it takes to improve the situation. Accept you cannot always be “right.” Start developing relationships with your list.

Develop Better Relationships

Keith recommends meeting others where they are, being vulnerable, and finding common ground between the two of you. You can find commonalities based on FORD (family, occupation, recreation, and dreams). Besides, you can find a shared purpose and mission between each other that can power more collaboration. Difficult circumstances can split us up if we do not nurture our relationships. Keith suggests when you come across strained times to remember the principle, “Look for your part.” Or said another way, by Jerry Colona in Reboot, “how am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”

Ok, now you are ready to start building better relationships with your teams. Keith offers a long list. Meet with your team to recontract the collaborative relationship and build a culture around candor. Without candor, our teams cannot improve quickly. Yet, we still need to call out poor collaboration habits and keep our emotions in check as we provide feedback. Keith offers a variety of techniques to achieve incremental improvement with a team. Listening, bold goals, and establishing actions to commit to will make a difference in how your team works together.

Co-Develop each other, Praise and Celebrate, Hold the team Accountable

Keith recommends asking for permission before delivering feedback. He warns you cannot assume you have permission to coach. When you coach, you need to explain why you are offering the feedback. You also should focus on the future and frame the feedback as an option, “You might try proof-reading a little longer next time.” When you offer feedback, you should also welcome it back. Feedback is a gift; a person may do nothing with that information. That’s ok. You can also ask questions that are indirect and help the person find the answer. Keith mentions avoiding why questions because they come across judgmental. Chris Voss in Never Split the Difference prefers what and how questions for this reason. Seek to improve how you deliver feedback, ask for it first before giving it, and take responsibility for how your words are received.

Celebrate the wins and the failures because we can learn from them. Praise the people displaying the behaviors you want to highlight. Half the job of coaching is criticism. The other half is celebrating. People want to hear gratitude for their participation and actions. Take an unreasonable stand. Believe in your team, encouraging them, and set high expectations for change and transformation.

Your job as a leader/coach is to observe the team and correct misbehavior. Gossip and venting are not constructive. It is your job as a leader to correct that bad behavior. Keith promotes meeting with others in private to gain information to help coach others. Rank your most at-risk team members first. Depending on your situation, consider reaching out to your network for other coaches to help through challenges. We succeed or fail as a team. We must raise our weakest team members.


Keith is the expert at nurturing co-elevating relationships. He knows what it takes to coach others, present feedback, and drive results with actionable insights. This book is full of tactics to apply toward the strategy of nurturing your professional relationships. This framework Keith developed is essential for shaping a highly-performing team. The old hierarchical model does not scale in these rapidly changing times. If you take anything away from this summary, focus on these elements.

  • Create a relationship action plan to help you rank what relationships you need to foster per project and mission.
  • Be an owner by serving others first and co-elevate with them toward mutual goals.
  • Ask permission before giving feedback and focus on your weakest team member first.