Leadership as a one man show is no longer a viable option. As I have shared before, leading is not seeking to exert control over others, and great leaders expect honest feedback from those around them. More succinctly, organizational excellence is not possible in the absence of autonomy.
How often though is needed change slowed by the misapplication of superior strategies and paradigms? The importance of making this point has been driven home for me recently as I observe situations in which a leader promotes the importance of autonomy without maintaining a culture of high standards. If everyone in an organization makes decisions for him/herself outside the context of a shared standard of excellence, the result is often severely disjointed practice – even chaos. It is the responsibility of every leader to nurture growth in those around him/her. To do so requires a dissatisfaction with stagnation and a clear vision of what should/could be. Permitting poor practice in the name of autonomy – or failing to recognize its existence – is doubly irresponsible. It abdicates the responsibility of leadership and it undermines the very valid principle being misapplied.
To leaders everywhere: hold tightly to the wheel of change. Do not swerve to one side or the other. As regards this part of leadership, nurture and listen to and trust the voice of those around you. Allow others to have a real and significant say in the decisions that impact them. But combine this practice with a culture of high expectations. Ask probing questions. Expect folks to think deeply about their practice and to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who has questions about it. Establish a shared definition of excellence together and hold each other accountable for holding your practice at that level.
Autonomy; not license.