How Do You Support A Self-directed Workplace?

Mar 11, 2016 1 Min Read


A manager is originally defined as “a person responsible for controlling or administering an organisation or group of staff.”

Honestly, who would align himself to be stifled in this way?

Enter supportive leadership—an approach to influence that gives people doing the work the authority, while leaders empower and support their team of followers.

While it might seem counterintuitive to let go of the reigns, the concept of supportive leadership comes down to the desire of humans and their drivers.

In Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he discusses the findings of two studies that explain the mechanics of what drives us and give meaning to the half-truth—money doesn’t equal satisfaction.

“The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table: Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money and they’re thinking about the work. Once you do that, it turns out there are three factors that the science shows lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” —Dan Pink

While leaders are visionaries themselves, they are neither infallible nor all-knowing. Hence, it is important to tap into the knowledge and ideas of others.

Trusting your followers or staff and opening the floor to them will allow them to own the goals. You ignite their own intrinsic motivations to self-direct and work meaningfully.

But, how?

Start with making these important changes to your approach:

1. Convey the ‘‘Why’’

Lose the do-as-I-say attitude. A leader needs to share his vision so that followers can find a place within it. Failing to give followers some sort of rationale leaves them in the dark—hindering their commitment to the project.

2. Ask first

While agendas and goals may begin with the leader, humans need a sense of choice and control to stay intrinsically motivated. Allowing your team to decide how these objectives can be achieved creates opportunity for ingenuity.

3. Touch base

Trust is a two-way street. Keep abreast of your team members’ progress and stay clued in to it. However, do not cross the line and begin to micromanage them. Leave them room to think or troubleshoot without your presence affecting them.

It’s a daunting step for anyone to take. However, followers are leaders in the making. And if you can empower and liberate them, they just might carry your torch.

Louisa believes everyone has a purpose. Share your thoughts with her at For more Try This articles, click here.

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Louisa was formerly an editorial associate and freelance writer with Leaderonomics. An extrovert who loves the outdoors; she thinks change is exciting and should be embraced.

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