Autonomy Earned

Most people inherently want to own their work and the outcomes of it. To make their own decisions and to learn for themselves in the process. In turn, they will gladly share in the responsibility to achieve a mutually desired goal together.

As noted leadership author Daniel Pink has simplified, Control = Compliance; Autonomy = Engagement

Autonomy is the freedom to learn for yourself and to increase your own level of knowledge. To learn to make decisions in unique applications when there will always be alternative courses to take. To have the capacity to know for certain that we don’t have all the answers up front, but that I might only learn more through my experiencing the decisions along the way.

Autonomy as a condition, is best earned with clear distinctions for all, rather than assumed individually. In balance, the person and the group define together the outcomes to be achieved in dialogue and negotiation so that an authentic engagement with earned autonomy can grow from that point. Autonomy as more towards a science rather than purely art. A science that is planned together to an established degree up front, rather than free-lancing for all with no aim.

With earned autonomy, the individual engages to the benefit of the group and the group engages to the benefit of the individual. They complement one another with all engaged to learn and to improve with shared responsibility. It may take time to come together, but in the end, autonomy brings with it an attainable and transferable knowledge for additional capacities to continually learn and sustain, even through new challenges. As Tom Kelly has referenced, “Mediocrity is expensive, autonomy is the antidote.”

A symbolic reference (author unknown) for seeking autonomy over control that I offer in advisement opportunities: “You can ask me to do it or tell me how to do it, but not both. If you already know both, then why don’t you just do it yourself?”

Seek to engage with a learning antidote of earned autonomy and not simply to be controlled or in control. All will benefit to a greater and more lasting degree from autonomy well earned.

“Your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible- that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first gives you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” — Ayn Rand —


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