Every job posting nowadays claims you’ll have “lots of autonomy.” You should be “highly organized” and “self-motivated to get things done,” because there’ll be plenty of decisions for you to make with authority and responsibility.
The reality often looks different. The only responsibility that truly gets passed on is the one the person above you doesn’t want, and your autonomy is frequently limited to how you do exactly what your boss asked you to do.
My dad sits right below the c-suite level in his organization. He still gets told who to fire when. That’s fauxtonomy at its worst. “Why don’t we offer early retirement to the guy who’s been clamoring for it for years? Who picked the person who’s performing well and actually has fun doing it?”
Everyone loves handing out autonomy until they have to live with the consequences of other people’s decisions. That’s why, in big corporations, autonomy only exists on paper. The strings are pulled in the same tiny unit where they’ve always been pulled — it’s just the fallout that spreads.
As a leader, your job is to listen, not point. If you’re not willing to trust the judgement of those you ask to help you, you’re not really entitled to their help at all. A manager with her ear to the ground will always have a better impression of what’s going on in her team than some higher-up 17 levels above in the org-chart, yet all it takes is a little humility for the two to come together: “What do you think? How should we handle this?”
Fauxtonomy is a pandemic, but it still hasn’t reached every corner of the world. Best of all, unlike a real virus, all we have to do to eradicate it is to change our minds. Don’t settle where you’re not trusted, and don’t stop trusting when believing in others gets uncomfortable.