The Dependency Syndrome

Have you found yourself asking these questions?

“Why don’t my team take more initiative?”
“Why don’t they make decisions?”
“Why do they constantly have to check in with me?” 

A frustration we keep hearing in our facilitation and guidance sessions from leaders is they’re continually having to get involved in micro tasks because their teams either lack capability or initiative.

Leaders tell us they’d to free up time by delegating, so they have more time to lead and focus their thinking on strategy. However, they worry they’ll ultimately wind up completing the task because they’re not confident in their team’s ability to execute.

The ugly truth. Are you creating dependency?

While this may be hard to hear, often the reason for their team’s reticence is that the leader them self isn’t trusting; is too controlling or perfectionistic; or maybe too authoritative or autocratic.

If this is the case, team members become scared to take initiative because they fear making a mistake or not meeting the leader’s expectations.

You still with me? If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have found that these fears, rational or irrational are all too present in teams.

We see consistently in organisational culture diagnostics, leaders are motivating their team to passively or aggressively defend their security by avoiding and becoming dependent. (Human Synergistics LSI and OCI)

The Dependency Syndrome. It is a vicious cycle.

The Dependency Syndrome is the term we give to the correlation of power based leadership and dependent followers.

The more power exerted by the leader, the more dependent the followers. The more dependent the followers, the greater the frustration felt by the leader. The greater the leader’s frustration, the more aggressive the leadership style. Hence, the cycle continues.

Professional Intimacy is the key

To break the Dependency Syndrome, it’s not a case of leaders simply softening up, (in fact, we’re encouraging leaders to be more challenging – but that’s a topic for another update). The key is to invest more time and energy into the relationships you have with your team, create Professional Intimacy, build more respect and create an environment of trust and security.

Of course, there may be capability gaps as well and these should absolutely be addressed. However, these gaps will be uncovered more easily if there is a level of openness and respect in the relationship.
To reduce one of your frustrations as a leader, first look at what you are doing that is promoting dependency and not initiative. 

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