The Self-Awareness Guy

Team Building and Autocratic Leadership

I was reading a discussion on a business site about team building recently.  Two vocal contributors talked about how team building was only a fluffy, superfluous activity that could only lead to coddled, lazy employees.  What was needed, they contended, was discipline and a strict adherence to rules and directives.  They added that employees were there only to carry out the leader's vision and not to have a good time.

I said to myself, "Where do I sign up?  Sounds like a great place to work."

Many leaders still function under the paradigm that the only thing that matters in business is to drive people until they break.  They genuinely believe that organizations are solely about their leaders and the rest of the employees are just there to carry out their vision.  Everything is wrapped around one charismatic disciplinarian who leads his flock bravely off the cliff into glory.

This style would be much more effective if people had no minds, no dreams, no independence, no skills and no need to grow or be fulfilled in any way in the workplace.  In the real world, there are very few people willing to have someone boss them around mercilessly all day.  So what's a budding autocrat to do?  I might look at relaxing a bit and letting people be who they are.  I don't say this to make leadership more difficult, I offer it as a way to create workplaces that run better because people feel better about themselves and the organization.

Feeling good is a difficult concept for leaders bred on discipline and order.  Many equate feeling good with being weak but I tend to think that it's about people performing well while feeling like they're important individually and collectively.  There's a big difference between doing work because you have no other choice or because you want to intrinsically.  When leaders motivate their employees from within they can count on them using their natural talents and abilities to greater advantage.  The trick is finding a way to encourage people to succeed based on their own inner motivators rather than those imposed from someone on the outside.

Team building requires the ability not only to have people produce but also to move beyond simply requiring people to perform tasks in some predetermined way toward a single goal.  It's about providing choices and opportunities and recognizing that people are able to think for themselves if given the chance.  It's easy to boss people around but much harder to have them direct themselves.  How will you practice excellent team building?