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Dynamic Leadership: An Expansion of Self Determination Theory

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Leader: I thought it was going well, but I’ve been in this leadership position now for almost a year and I feel like we’re not making any progress. I feel like we’re spinning our wheels. I can tell people are getting frustrated, and I’m getting frustrated too. I’m just not sure how to move forward. The team seemed really motivated at first and now there’s a lot more silence in the team meetings. They’re not as willing to share their ideas, and I’m not sure why. I feel like I have a good relationship with everyone, but it seems like they’re not being totally forthcoming with me. I’d like for you to do a 360 assessment with my team and colleagues so hopefully I can get to the heart of what’s going on.

After conducting the leadership assessment, it was clear that the Leader was overcompensating for her predecessor’s leadership behaviors. This Leader was now being so inclusive and soliciting input from everyone that it was becoming a barrier to her success. Instead of the team feeling valued for their opinions, the team was feeling like they’ve argued the same points for months and haven’t made any real decisions to move the team forward. They were wanting their Leader to lean in and make some executive decisions when necessary so they could start seeing results. The Coach reviewed the open-ended comments from the assessment with the Leader.

Coach: Now that we’ve reviewed the comments together, what are your thoughts?

Leader: I can understand their frustration of not seeing progress, like I said before, I feel the same way. But it’s just not me to take over, shut down conversations, and make decisions on behalf of the group. That’s not my style. I’m not a dictator.

Coach: It sounds like you’re categorizing your leadership choices into two buckets—either you continue to be inclusive and build relationships or you shut people down by making decisions for the team. Did I capture that accurately?

Leader: Well, yes, that’s what happens when you make decisions for the team, you do shut people down. I worked too hard to build up these relationships that I’m not willing to risk that happening now.

Coach: I hear that as a strong belief of yours. When you make decisions for others, you shut down the relationship. Are you willing to brainstorm with me? What if there’s a third approach? One that allows you to keep your inclusive style, AND also make decisions. Are you willing to explore that with me?

Leader: I don’t see how that’s possible, but sure, let’s give it a try.

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