Leadership Skills: Balancing Clear Direction with Creative Freedom

Hilary Jane Grosskopf
Awake Leadership Solutions
6 min readDec 5, 2018

We have all felt micromanaged by a leader at some point; limited in our ability to decide how to do something or constantly critiqued for taking an approach we thought was best. On the other hand, many of us have also felt left on our own without enough guidance or support from our leader, unsure if we’re heading in the right direction and fulfilling expectations.

As a leader, it’s important to find the right balance between giving clear direction and autonomy for team members. Many leaders fall on one side of the spectrum; giving too much direction or too much independence. An imbalance between these two leadership vitals can cause suboptimal productivity, frustration, and expensive turnover for teams. When leaders find the balance between giving clear direction and independence to team members, the team accomplishes collective objectives with efficiency. The team takes ownership of their work and makes progress with enthusiasm. The team produces new ideas and solutions because they have the space to learn. Do you give more direction or more independence to your team members? Why is it important to find the right balance? How can you give the right balance?

Read below to diagnose your leadership style, identify your blind spots, and discover solutions for how you can lead your team toward new potential.

Style 1: You give excess Direction, not enough Autonomy & Freedom

As a leader, a key responsibility is to clearly articulate team objectives and give team members direction. However, many leaders are excessive in giving direction and this can turn into micromanagement. This often frustrates team members because team members feel a lack of autonomy and trust. Excess direction also limits team members from learning by trying things on their own and coming up with their own creative ideas and approaches. There is a fine line between clear direction and micromanagement, but giving the right amount of direction is important for team members to feel clear about objectives and supported, while not feeling a lack of trust or autonomy.

Symptoms your team members lack Autonomy & Creative Freedom…

  • Team members feel micromanaged and don’t take ownership…

Hilary Jane Grosskopf
Awake Leadership Solutions

Systems engineer, leadership strategist, writer, and yogi. Founder of Awake Leadership Solutions. Author of the Awake Leadership and Awake Ethics guidebooks.