The Responsibility of Autonomy

Every aspiring business leader I’ve met craved autonomy.

The person wanted the freedom to make his or her own decisions and use the leadership approach of his or her own choosing. The leadership mindset is, “Clarify the desired outcome for me or with me and I will guide the group to that desired outcome.” When given autonomy, ordinary people can display extraordinary leadership abilities.

However, that freedom comes with one condition. The leader has to be held accountable for his or her actions and results. If the results are consistently poor, then that makes it easy for the boss or the board to say, “Sorry, but it didn’t work out.” What is much harder is when the results are reasonably good or even fantastic, but the leader’s behaviors are consistently demeaning or overly controlling. Now the boss or the board has a much tougher decision to make. They allowed this business leader to have autonomy, but the person’s behaviors went against everything the company stands for.

In that situation, the leader has to be held accountable with negative consequences. Otherwise, the boss and/or the board sends the message that people can act in ways that contradict the values of the organization. Autonomy is one thing. That gives people the freedom to flourish. But if the person chooses actions that are massively negative, then he or she has also chosen to be held accountable with negative consequences.

I encourage you to give your employees as much autonomy as possible in making decisions, but also hold them accountable for the behaviors they choose to use and the results they generate with positive and negative consequences.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s