Here is a typical organizational scenario. Frank, the department manager, has been charged with attaining new demanding company production targets. The pressure is on: timelines have been set and expectations are high. In challenging times like this, the default approach is often “heat transfer”, that is, delegate the task to staff and monitor them closely to make sure they deliver the goods. Frank however chooses the path less traveled. He opts to shares the challenge with his team and gives them the space and resources they need to make it happen.
Frank’s approach only works if he understands and trusts each member of his team to step up and do their share. His experience with them has shown him they can do that. But even when some leaders know what their staff are capable of, they still resort to fear-based tactics when they are under pressure.
What enables Frank to choose wisely in this pressure-packed situation? Two things. First, he knows and trusts his own judgment. Second, he knows that professionals work best when they have a sense of agency and empowerment. Frank knows both his own strengths and those of his respective team members. That knowledge is powerful and enabling in the most positive sense.
This capacity to deeply know yourself and those you work with has been described by Dr Yoram Kaufman as “exquisite attunement”, a term used in this context when a leader understands and relates to his/her staff with deep empathy and a strong sense of self. In this scenario, Frank knows how to put his team members at the centre without losing his own centre.
A well-grounded leader is a balanced leader. They develop the necessary level of “exquisite attunement” with their staff that does two critically important things: meets the organizational goals and enhances the staff’s sense of ownership, efficacy and engagement.