The Charismatic Leader and Employee Autonomy

In my new book, The Gift: Discretionary Effort, I describe five management levers the charismatic leader can use to motivate employees. These five levers effectively replace the stick and carrot approach that worked so well in the 20th Century when you had plenty of money to reward people for doing what your leadership team wanted them to do. Those financial rewards took the form of expensive gifts, complex compensation systems, President Club vacations, etc. Do you personally remember these rewards?

These rewards were all extrinsic motivators and worked when companies had huge coffers. With diminished financial reserves and with employees becoming external reward averse, charismatic leaders are rethinking motivation and finding ways to release intrinsic motivation in employees.

In the book, The Gift: Discretionary Effort, management levers are arranged in pyramid form. The top of the pyramid is “Authentic Contribution,” the pinnacle of self-motivation and zenith of contribution to the organization. At this point, the employee works in collaboration with considerable independence and is seen as a partner in making the organization profitable and sustainable.

Autonomy Helps Employees Be Self-Motivated

As a charismatic leader, you can help employees be self-motivated and earn their discretionary effort by turning the focus of employee motivation from hard results and productivity numbers tied to rewards to employee autonomy and employee learning.

It makes no sense to hire an employee for their skills, knowledge, and intellect, then micromanage their every move. It makes good sense to give the employee parameters, conditions and a vision of the finished product and invite the employee to share their ideas. At this point, if you feel the employee understands the project and what the end product should be, permit the employee to operate autonomously within the parameter you have set. The employees feel empowered as they exercise influence over the decisions that affect them personally, assert control over the project and make crucial decisions. Giving the employee autonomy to make decisions is a form of reward for consistent and reliable behavior.

It also provides phenomenal learning and growth experiences. I learn quickly and deeply when I need information to solve a particular problem. When employees are immersed in a project, operating autonomously and MUST have answers to challenges to complete the project, they will learn rapidly, finding viable alternatives and exploring feasible options. This learning builds competence and self-esteem.

Your reward? You will have a gift of time to focus on the future as your employees provide their own internal motivation through the opportunity to operate autonomously. The by product is retention of your best and brightest.

How do you feel about autonomy? How much autonomy does your organization allow? Please leave your comments below. 

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