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Positive Leaders Provide “Supportive Autonomy”

by Beth on February 16th, 2011

Positive organizations create cultures of caring based on the belief that everyone who comes into contact with the company should be better off because of it.  This includes employees.  Companies demonstrate concern for their employees’ well-being by actively attending to their needs.  Two key employee needs are autonomy and support.

Having autonomy is very important to employees.  People have a strong need to control their lives and to participate in making decisions that affect them.  In my own research I found that autonomy was related to higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment and fewer thoughts of quitting.  In cultures of caring leaders understand that their job is to create conditions where people thrive, not to control their every move.

In addition to autonomy, people also need to feel that they have the support necessary to succeed.  Clarifying expectations and giving people control over how they achieve their goals isn’t enough.  Leaders need to clear the path, getting rid of barriers that stand in the way of goal achievement.  Their role should be to empower others by serving their needs and making sure they have the resources required to get the job done.

In their book, Being the Boss, Linda Hill and Kent Lineback discuss the importance of “supportive autonomy”.  Providing supportive autonomy means giving people the room they need to succeed on their own, but also remaining hands-on enough to provide support when it is needed.  Leaders create a positive workplace when they view their role as coordinating, facilitating, and supporting the work of their people rather than controlling it.

Would your team members say that you provide them with supportive autonomy?  Do they view you as someone who is available when they need help achieving their goals?

From → Autonomy, Work

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