Last week I watched a common example of one individual serving as the intellect and conscience for another. It happened at Publix, our local grocery store, where my 17-year-old son Benjamin decided to apply for a job. Standing at the application kiosk was a couple, painfully going through the questions, discussing and debating each response. The woman, who was the one applying for a job, was insecure answering the questions on her own, instead, running each one by “her man” as she referred to him several times. Makes me wonder, if she gets the job, if he’ll be tagging along then, as well.
Leaders create an unhealthy, codependent relationship when they do something similar with employees. This practice is often caused by the open-door policy of many managers, who too often position themselves as being the go-to authority. As a result, the practiced dynamic is one in which the employees don’t have to come up with their answers, always relying on the boss for ideas and input. What often makes this worse is employees’ fear of being wrong or making a mistake.
Leadership Dependence, an all too common reality in companies, has caused leaders to be even more overwhelmed than ever and employees to be less self-sufficient. The alternative, Corporate Interdependence, promotes personal responsibility for doing the next right thing and engaging in collaboration where it’s actually needed.
To shift into Corporate Interdependence, managers simply need to ask more questions versus giving out answers. Saying “What would you do,” or “What’s the first step you could take,” begins to empower people to be more engaged, more responsible, and even more satisfied as they gain confidence in their own abilities. And often, leaders learn a few things themselves when employees come up with even better ideas.