“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.” Chinese Proverb
Independence is the ability to be self directed and free from emotional dependency on others. People who demonstrate a healthy level of independence are usually willing and able to choose their own course of action. They are comfortable making decisions on their own knowing that at times people will disagree with them. They take initiative and feel confident doing so yet they avoid damaging productive working relationships by excluding others when making decisions. Being independent also means freely expressing emotions. Independent people don’t need reassurance or a group consensus to say what they feel.
If your independence is low
People with low independence are susceptible to the influence of colleagues and superiors. They might be resistant or uncomfortable if required to work autonomously. In conversations or meetings, they may find themselves adopting the same emotions as others in the room or easily conforming to others’ decisions. While this can give the impression of being a great team player, it is at the expense of neglecting their own independently generated ideas.
Strategy to develop greater independence
Dependency on others may result from a lack of self-confidence or fears of being perceived as “being not …. enough”. Removing the fears and barriers will create a space to take accountability for your own decisions and actions. Work with the coach to understand the reasons for your dependency.
If your independence is too high
Being overly independent may sometimes bring low results. Overly independent people may be seen as arrogant or come across as not needing any help from anyone. They must be cautious not to neglect the emotions and opinions of others and keep a close eye on how often they make decisions unilaterally, rather than building coalitions.
Strategy to develop if you are too independent
Effective, independent professionals don’t march off in their own direction hoping that others follow; they balance self-directed thought with the ability to secure buy-in and support from key relationships.
- Examine past decisions that were not well supported by your colleagues. What did your decision-making process look like? Where might securing buy-in have broken down?
- Brainstorm ways that you can involve others in your decision-making process. The ultimate decision or plan may rest with you, but it will be easier to gain support when others feel empowered throughout the decision-making process.