Self-Management Leadership Fosters Innovation

Innovations in organizations start with creative employees, whose creativity is expressed and enhanced in an autonomous, self-managed environment. Hierarchical, bureaucratic business management creates a rigid structure and set of rules that demand compliance with existing practices. This discourages generating novel and original ideas for products, services, and their delivery. In an increasingly competitive business environment, […]

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Innovations in organizations start with creative employees, whose creativity is expressed and enhanced in an autonomous, self-managed environment.

Hierarchical, bureaucratic business management creates a rigid structure and set of rules that demand compliance with existing practices. This discourages generating novel and original ideas for products, services, and their delivery. In an increasingly competitive business environment, such conservative organizations tend to perform at mediocre levels, if they manage to survive.

Self Management: Significance and Meaning

In a traditional organization, there are leaders and followers. The leader decides what to do, and even how to do it, and followers comply with the leader’s directions in these matters. In effect, this means that one (or a few) persons exercise their faculties while others simply carry out orders.

Such a scenario might be okay where employees are unskilled persons with no desire to study issues and make decisions. However, in a scenario where employees are persons with high levels of skills and training, the scenario can be frustrating and wasteful. Skilled and talented employees have the ability and potential to contribute actively to organizational success.

Even more importantly, it has been found that the creativity of creative employees tend to get expressed and enhanced only in an environment where:

  • The work is challenging
  • Employees are encouraged to come up with creative new ideas
  • Co-workers and supervisors support such creativity, and the ideas are considered and evaluated seriously
  • Employees have the autonomy and control to do things on their own
  • Employees are also given adequate resources to carry out the work such as fast laptops and computers

It is in such a context that the issue of self-management gains importance. Self managed employees:

  • Gather information and knowledge to assess their own performance
  • Set performance goals at the team and/or individual levels
  • Recognize good performance and reinforce themselves
  • Set high-performance expectations for themselves
  • Rehearse tasks before actually implementing them as probably mission-critical operations
  • Criticize and discourage their own poor performance

Self-managed employees and teams tend to observe the realities on the ground, and come up with innovations in the forms of new ways of doing things, or even with new product and service ideas. It is such innovations that help organizations to survive and prosper in a competitive environment.

A New Leadership Style – Self Management Leadership

Under the Self Management Leadership style, organizational development will involve developing self-managing employees and teams as described in the previous section. Self-management leaders do this by:

  • Taking considerable efforts to assemble a team with the right mix of talents.
  • Acting as facilitators helping employees to improve their talents rather than as commanders giving orders.
  • Coaching each team member in a manner that creates the kind of work environment conducive to creativity.
  • Ensuring that there is a functioning environment where employees are encouraged to come up with creative ideas and that these ideas receive respect and consideration.

The self-management leader consciously tries to avoid creating a hierarchical structure where power and rules tend to block dialogue and creativity. Informal social interactions and good knowledge management practices are more conducive to creativity than formal meetings and rule-bound discussions. Management training takes on a new dimension in such a context.

Leadership development will also have a new focus. Instead of seeking to manipulate employees through political means, leaders will be expected to become facilitators helping others to achieve great results. Qualities required under participative and transformational leadership styles become relevant while those under authoritarian and task-oriented styles become obstacles.

Self-management leadership is a style of leadership that encourages employees to manage their own behavior, and also creates an environment that provides greater autonomy and self-motivation to employees. This style is suited to an organization that employs highly trained and skilled employees who can learn to manage and motivate themselves.

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