4 Leadership Styles that Cultivate Autonomy

4 Leadership Styles that Cultivate Autonomy

Empower Your People

Leaders of the best-run companies know that empowering people creates positive results. Empowerment means letting people bring their brains to work and allowing them to use their knowledge, experience and motivation to create a healthy triple bottom line, according to best-selling author, Ken Blanchard in Leading at a Higher Level.

In a hierarchical culture, boundaries are really like barbed-wire fences. They are designed to control people by keeping them in certain places and out of other places. In an empowered culture, boundaries are more like rubber bands that can expand to allow people to take on more responsibility as they grow and develop.

One of the best ways to build a sense of trust and responsibility in people is by sharing information.

As people learn autonomy by using shared information, they must move away from dependence on the hierarchy. Self-directed individuals and Next Level teams –– highly skilled, interactive groups with strong self-managing skills –– replace the support of the hierarchy.

The best-run companies beat out the competition day in and day out by treating their customers right. They do that by having a workforce that is excited about its shared vision and motivated to serve their customers at a higher level. The key is empowerment. Having a strategy to shift the emphasis from leader as boss and evaluator to leader as partner and cheerleader becomes imperative.

To bring out the best in others, leadership must match the development level of the person being led. Giving people too much or too little direction has a negative impact on people’s development. Situational leadership is based on the belief that people can and want to develop, and there is no best leadership style to encourage that development. An effective situational leader should tailor their leadership style to the situation.

4 Situational Leadership Styles

There are four basic leadership styles in situational leadership: directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. These correspond to four basic development levels: enthusiastic beginner, disillusioned learner, capable but cautious performer, and self-reliant achiever. Enthusiastic beginners need a directing style, and self-reliant achievers need a delegating style.

As direct reports move from one development level to the next, the leadership style should change accordingly. It requires flexibility. Ultimately, partnering can open up communication between leaders and their direct reports and increase the quality and frequency of conversation.

Managers must learn to let go of command-and-control leadership styles. There’s no choice. It is common to find one manager with 25 to 75 direct reports. Add to that, there are virtual teams where managers are being asked to supervise people they seldom, if ever, meet face to face. Bosses can no longer play the role of telling people what, when and how to do everything. More than ever, companies are relying on empowered individuals to get the job done.

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