Autonomy & Accountability
I recently had a conversation with a friend who holds a senior leadership position in an organization. Over the past few years, this person has committed himself to becoming the very best leader he can be. This journey has led him down a path of daily journaling, reading, and looking at himself and his work through multiple different lenses in order to truly assess the genuine impact he has as a leader.
Research done by the Harvard Business Review suggests that, while many organizations understand the importance of leadership development, very few actually prioritize ongoing professional training for its leaders nor holds them accountable for their own growth.
Pockets of great leadership within organizations exist everywhere, but the work done to achieve great leader status often happens in silos. Many leaders hold their people to the highest standards possible, but the extent to which they hold themselves and their fellow leaders accountable for their own actions is often hit and miss. This can lead to a ‘bleeding out of overall morale’ in the workplace.
Great leaders are much more interested in understanding reality than in being right. They are willing to accept when they are wrong and seek the feedback needed to continually grow within their own role. They prioritize their own growth and place the people who they serve at the core of everything they do.
The friend I mentioned earlier in this blog post prioritizes autonomy in the workplace. He has committed himself to creating an environment that provides the autonomy needed for all people to thrive and flourish. But with this focus on autonomy must come accountability. He is grappling with how best to support autonomy, but to ensure that with this autonomy also comes a deep sense of responsibility and accountability. What he has come to understand is that accountability must start with him and how he models it to the people in the organization.
Therefore he has two different questions that he will further reflect on over the next several weeks:
He knows that the expectations he holds for his staff must also be the same expectations he holds for his senior leadership team. As he continues to reflect on the two questions above, he will refine his own ways of working to best exemplify what it means to lead with responsibility and to keep accountability on his radar at all times.
In his next whole staff meeting, he has decided to share why the concept of autonomy is so important to him. In sharing his own story and experiences, he is hoping his people will better understand why he wants to prioritize autonomy. However, in sharing this, he also needs to deeply address accountability and what accountability actually means.
Rather than be the knowledge authority on this theme and tell his people what they are expected to know and understand about accountability, he is turning the conversation over to them to unpack on a deeper level. They will co-construct what accountability means on multiple different levels within and across the organization in order to make some agreements around it.
The 4 questions they will unpack as a whole group are:
In letting go of control and the need to ‘tell people what and how to think’, he is ultimately creating the conditions for voice within his organization and modeling what leading with humility and autonomy actually means.
As he has not taken this approach before, he is uncertain how it will go. However, he is willing to take the risk to make himself vulnerable in sharing his own story and why autonomy means so much to him based on past experiences. He is willing to try something new.
Well-known actor and Oscar award winner Denzel Washington once said, “Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you are willing to take risks” and that “Every failed experiment is one step closer to success”.
By approaching a new way to address genuine accountability in his organization, my friend is taking the risk needed to lead by example. He strives to push himself toward continual growth and progress as evidenced by his willingness to do things differently even in the face on an uncertain outcome.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin:
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
How true these words are. Especially when it comes to leadership development and growth. In reflecting on this blog post, how do you, as a leader, provide autonomy in your workplace? As well, how do you ensure that all stakeholders understand the importance of accountability? And lastly, how do you hold your fellow leaders accountable for their actions and words?
Thanks for reading. Have any thoughts? Please share in the comment box below.
Leave a Reply.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.