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TTM associates Article

Simon Lawson
Simon Lawson is a senior management and sales consultant with a strong focus on managing key accounts, corporate accounts and sales management.
In today’s chaotic business environment it is of great importance that companies identify and effectively manage the development and growth of their employees in order to motivate them to use their full capabilities.

One of the most crucial skills that adds value and therefore makes a difference nowadays is working with employees who have a high level of autonomy!

According to Leino (Kilpi et al,2000), the word autonomy is derived from the Greek ‘autos’ (self) and ‘nomos’ (rule, governance or law). It was first used to refer to the self-rule or self-governance of independent Hellenic states. Autonomy has since been extended to individuals and has acquired meanings as diverse as self-governance, liberty rights, privacy, individual choice, freedom of will, responsibility for one’s own behaviours and being one’s own person.

On another note, Hardina et al (2006), related the concept of autonomy and employee empowerment, stating that

“Employee autonomy is often cited by workers as one of the beneficial features of empowerment”.

This is because the freedom and independence to make decisions and the discretion to do the work provides workers with a sense of self-determination, a concept that is often seen as a motivator in circumstances where workers express initiative and creativity.

In terms of clarifying the concept of autonomy though, it is important to argue that autonomy under empowerment does not mean that workers are free to work without any accountability or responsibility. In fact it requires a great deal of coordination and interaction with other personnel in the organisation. Cohan and Austin (1997) add to this, stating that to be totally autonomous in one’s job is unrealistic and dysfunctional.

Therefore, and as identified above, one of the keys to retaining employees in the modern organisation is to develop an environment supporting autonomy according to Thomas Lee, a professor of management and associate dean for academic and faculty affairs in the University of Washington Foster School of Business. He states the following:

“We find that when the team environment supports autonomy, individuals tend to feel more engaged with the teams and empowered by the work, which leads to greater profitability and retention”.

In order for an individual to be autonomous it is important to therefore be able to grow effective decision making capabilities and effective influencing skills to positively influence others and to understand the importance of being accountable, to assign tasks effectively, along with building a sense of credibility towards others. These are the skills and qualities that enable the individual to grow themselves and to develop capabilities that will consequently benefit him/her and as a result, the organisation

monthly_article_autonomyAfter all, autonomy is said to be a positive attribute for employees and the organisation as a whole. Employees’ desire autonomy and one may argue that its introduction can increase motivation and satisfaction. However, it is also fair to argue that sometimes too much autonomy can be identified to have certain organisational drawbacks, and for that reason care should always be taken when autonomy is increased or practised in the organisation.


  • “An empowering approach to managing social service organisations”, Hartina D, Middleton J, Montana S, Simpson R., 2006
  • “Patient’s Autonomy, Privacy and Informed Consent”, Leino – Kilpi H, Valimaki M, Arndt M, Dassen T, Gasull M, Lemonidou C, Scott P,A, Bansemir G, Cabrera E, Papavangelou H, Parland J, Mc., 2000
  • “Want to retain high – value employees? Empower autonomy.”, Foster School of Business, 2011 [Link]
Read more about Behavioural Leadership and about how TTM associates is empowering autonomous behaviours in clients’ teams and individuals.