We all report to somebody.

To whom do you report?

A boss, an owner, your Board of Directors?

Most leaders accept the reality that they must take direction from someone else in their organization.

What leaders are not comfortable with is working without a clear delineation of responsibilities vis a vis the person to whom they report.

I coach many leaders who routinely take initiative by stepping up to manage a situation, only to hear from the person they report to that this action is not supported and needs to be reversed.

When such an action needs to be stepped back because someone more senior in the organization pulls rank, a leader’s authority and impact can be diminished. This also can lead to frustration, resentment and concern on the part of the leader who believed he or she was in position to take action.

Leaders can avoid these moments of frustration by sitting down with those to whom they report, on a regular basis, to clarify and confirm who is responsible for what types of decisions.

This sounds simple, and yet those to whom we report may see this as an ever-changing landscape, not realizing that this undercuts the ability of leaders to act swiftly and with confidence.

Leaders need to discover what decisions or issues their bosses or owners want to retain the right to weigh in on, and/or where they want to maintain a 51% vote.

While those to whom we report may wish to maintain control over “everything”, leaders must assert their need to be able to decide and act in areas where the boss or owner does not need to be involved.

The people to whom we report need to find the 20% or less of issues and decisions where they feel they must retain control or ownership, and then be willing to let their senior leaders own the other 80% or more of decisions.

In the absence of this clarity around roles, organizations can expect there to be undue conflict, and for their senior leaders to feel they are not trusted to do their jobs.