Extraordinary Leadership Skill: Balancing Autonomy with Accountability

      Extraordinary Leadership Skill:
       Autonomy with Accountability

Published on March 31, 2019Michelle Bostian

Developing Leaders at all Levels

All of us feel the pressure to have an impact on the behavior of someone. Whether you are leading a company, a colleague or a child, the challenge lies in the balance between autonomy and accountability. Autonomy, or freedom of choice and voice, is a core psychological need and key to developing internal motivation. (It’s key in getting folks to do what we want them to do because they want to, not just because we tell them to!) But autonomy is often misunderstood. It is often simplified as “freedom”. Freedom to choose how we do a project or who we hire for the job. Freedom to design our own goals and determine our success or failure. However, if we only offer freedom we are missing the boat. Autonomy is about freedom within guardrails. Guardrails are the accountability that makes autonomy feel motivating. Too much freedom is overwhelming and stressful. None of us work effectively when we are overwhelmed and stressed. As you lead others to change a behavior or accomplish a goal, it is helpful to work to incorporate a healthy balance of both autonomy and accountability. You will notice those you lead moving forward and your relationships improving at the same time!

Autonomy Reflections                                                

  • Where is there opportunity for choice and voice?
  • What elements of organizational autonomy are present (who does what) ?
  • What elements of procedural autonomy are present (how is it done) ?
  • What elements of cognitive autonomy are present (control over problem solving) ?
  • How does innate desire come into play (natural inclination or interest) ?
  • How are you holding yourself accountable for providing autonomy?

Accountability Reflections

  • Have you provided absolute clarity about the goal and your expectations?
  • What are the agreements you have come to together about the goal?
  • How will you gather feedback? Be specific.
  • What will be an indication it is time to evaluate? How often will you evaluate?
  • What will indicate success or that things are headed in the wrong direction?
  • How are you holding yourself accountable for providing accountability?

Michelle Bostian, LCSW, ACC, BCC bostianm@outlook.com bostianconsultinggroup.com

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