Imagine a leading managing who shares their vision with you and then trusts you to use utilize your expertise while giving you all the resources and support you need in order to achieve that vision. Now, imagine a leader who shares their vision with you and then proceeds to micro-manage you while criticizing any choice you make that doesn’t fit within their idea of how their vision should be achieved.

Which leading managing would you rather work with?

The primary difference between leaders who lead and those who simply manage is how much autonomy they encourage for their team. This is not to say that a leader’s input or vision is not valuable or is not a required role of their job. However, how a leader makes their team members feel about their own role within their position can have very positive or negative effects.

The leader that promotes autonomy values the talents, thinking, and contributions that others make to the organization. They recognize and trust the abilities of individuals and look for ways to bring out the best in them. Promoting autonomy means providing support for the individual to do on their own, without doing for them.

Promoting autonomy requires a high level of trust to allow others to use their talents, make decisions, and make some mistakes from time to time. There is a requirement for the leader to have tolerance for things that are not going exactly right.

A leader who promotes autonomy:

  • Facilitates the development of those people who report to them
  • Ensures that processes help others do their best work and are non-bureaucratic
  • Helps others form meaningful goals and allows them the freedom to make decisions to achieve those goals
  • Leads people who are excited about their work and invested in their roles
  • Creates a culture that provides freedom and autonomy that drives business results and differentiates itself from competitors
  • Makes decisions that give their employees opportunities to have a real impact on the organization and begin better utilizing their greatest assets

A leading managing who doesn’t promote autonomy:

  • Creates an environment in which employees lack the freedom to make decisions or innovate
  • Micro-manages people
  • Worries more about the outcome than the learning and growth taking place
  • Provides all direction and requires it to be followed fully
  • Undervalues the skills and contributions that members of the team are capable of
  • Creates a structure that is rigid and has silos

To be a leader who promotes autonomy, the steps are simple – trust in the abilities of your team, and provide them the freedom to act. The benefits of this leadership style will be evident when levels of employee engagement and productivity increase.

What ways do you or leaders within your organization promote autonomy within others? What are the benefits you have witnessed?