Co-Creative Leadership: How to Know How Much Autonomy to Give

When you're managing people, it can be difficult to decide what level of autonomy to give to each person. It is important to remember that each person is different and, thus, has a different set of skills. If you find someone with a lot of motivation, knowledge and skills, you can give them much freedom in the decision making process. If, on the other side of things, you find that someone has a low level of motivation, you have to find a way in which you can lead them. That is to say that how much autonomy you give someone depends on their individual skills and personality. There are different leadership roles you might take in this capacity.

As you might imagine, you want to avoid the extreme roles in this situation. If you give someone total freedom, you become an abdicator. That is to say that you relinquish all your power. Doing so can lead to disastrous results, and so you must avoid it. If you don't give a person any autonomy, though, you become a dictator. This can lead to worker frustration and other serious problems. So, what roles can you take here?


If someone is both knowledgeable and skilled in an area, you might want to give them the highest level of responsibility. In this instance, you take on the role of a helper. That is to say that you let the person take much of the duties on while giving them advice when they need it. If they come to you for help, of course, you will be there. You will be ready to aid them in any way that they need. Other than that, though, you will take something of a backseat, letting them make most of the decisions.


If someone needs a little extra guidance, you can take on the role of consultant. This role is just a little different from that of supporter. In this role, you give your employee a little less autonomy than they would otherwise have. You act as their right-hand man, aiding them in any crucial decisions that they have to make. The two of you should discuss each situation before making any judgement. Remember to let your staff member talk to you in a controlled environment. That way, you can make sure that each decision is clear.


When it is clear that someone needs more guidance or lacks the knowledge you have, you can take on the role of partner. That is to say that the two of you work together to make each decision. You should listen to what your employee has to say and allow a natural, organic judgement to come out of the conversation. In this capacity, the two of you have an equal say in what happens and how things proceed from here.


If someone needs a lot of guidance or is completely new to the business, you need to take on the role of arbiter. While you will still discuss each decision, you also need to make sure that you have the final say in the matter. In this case, you make the decisions as the person beneath you is not yet capable of doing so. Of course, it is still important to listen to your employee. You must never have a preconception of what the outcome will be - that should become clear during the discussion.


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