Control and Autonomy with Confidence and Humility

May 7th, 2019 by Kelly Kienzle

The Scene

The team’s leader frowned as she clicked forward through the coming months of her calendar. She could see the mounting number of changes that her team would soon face. She could feel her temples start to press inward on her brain as she considered all the small decisions she would need to make and the overall direction she would need to set.  Her confidence wavered as she felt the smallness of her strength to control outcomes.

But then she remembered that the best leaders distribute their control. Great leaders give autonomy to their team so each person can do their best.

Yet now her brain swung into a new worry when she considered all of the decisions that would ultimately be her responsibility. How would she give freedom to her team but still exert control over their direction? How would she display confidence while still showing her humanity?

Act I: Balancing Control and Autonomy

This delicate balance between letting go of decisions and holding on to control is one area where leaders struggle. They are like an acrobat walking a tightrope holding a long pole for balance. If one end of the pole dips too much to one side, the acrobat must dip the other side of the pole a little more, but not too much to the other side.

The same is true for a leader. She must give autonomy to her team, but if she gives too much and the team starts to teeter, she must compensate by tilting towards taking back control herself.  Autonomy balances out Control.

So how do you anticipate what your team needs? How do you control for the inevitable changes and disruptions that scramble your strategic plans?

Act II: Balancing Confidence and Humility

Now is where a second balancing is required: the balance between Confidence and Humility. Good leaders understand the balance between Control and Autonomy. Great leaders understand that the stumbles and missteps are inevitable.  So instead of trying to control or avoid them, they face them with Confidence and Humility.

What is a Confident Leader? Facing turmoil with Confidence is really about trust.If our calendar-gazing leader looks at the coming months with Confidence, then she is trusting herself and her team to weather those oncoming storms. She is trusting the work she and her team have invested in themselves will pay off.  She also makes sure to communicate her Confidence to her team, so they, too, will move forward confidently.

This Confidence should also be balanced, just as Control was balanced with Autonomy. Confidence should be tempered with Humility. Humility is stating when hard things are hard.  Humility is asking others for help, input and guidance. Humility is admitting fault and claiming mistakes.  The power of humility is that it feeds Confidence.  If her team hears her admitting a mistake, then they know she has enough Confidence to admit those mistakes.

Conclusion: Our Hero in 4-Part Balance

And so we now can think of leadership as that acrobat who holds two poles. One pole is the balance between Control and Autonomy. The other pole is the balance between Confidence and Humility.

Take a look at how you have been leading your team for the last few months.Which end have you been tipping more towards? To correct it, what is the polar opposite that you should lean towards now?  How will you know when you have leaned too far towards that end?

Leadership is forever dynamic. There is no stable state. Be mindful of these 4 balances and you can create dynamic leadership.

If you would like to learn how to create your balance between these four elements, please contact me  for a chat about leadership coaching for you or your team.

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