How to Balance Independence and Inclusiveness

In my conversations with fellow leaders, I’ve learned that many people struggle with balancing independence and collaboration. Too much one or the other, and our leadership is out of whack!

When we’re too independent, we miss the opportunity to get input and rely on the strengths of our teammates. As John Maxwell says, “If you’re leading and no one’s following, you’re simply taking a walk.” Independent leaders who rely solely on their own knowledge and experiences in making decisions and influencing others are just out for a walk.

However, being too collaborative has its own share of risks at the opposite end of the spectrum. When we are hesitant to take any action without the input from the team or an entire committee, progress can slows to a crawl. When it comes to sharing information, our teammates shouldn’t always be in the know on everything, especially when it might detract their focus or weigh them down with burdens that are not theirs to carry.

So, how do we find the balance? Here are some helpful guidelines.

3 Instances When You Should Collaborate

  • Tap into your teammates’ expertise in areas where they’re strong. You should know your teammates strengths’ and lean on those strengths when you are working in an area of their expertise.
  • Solicit different opinions and perspectives. You don’t lead in a vacuum, and you shouldn’t make decisions in a vacuum.
  • Create something better together than you could alone. Isn’t that the whole purpose of building a team?

Remember, leadership is influence, and you cannot influence others if you always operate independently or hand down orders from an Ivory Tower.

3 Instances When You Should Remain Independent

  • The knowledge you have would be a burden to your team. Your negative moods or your disappointment with other leaders’ decisions are your alone to bear.
  • A decision must be made quickly. Not every decision has time for or requires the input of several teammates.
  • You’re addressing a performance issue with a teammate. Teammates shouldn’t know the dirt on one another. Respect the confidentiality of a critical conversation.

Like so many other things in leadership, we must learn to balance our independence and our inclusiveness by doing what is best for our organization first, our team second, and ourselves last.


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