Understanding Growth in a Work Environment

Empowerment and growth is, of course, an essential part of effective leadership. Whenever I train a new group of leaders however, I end up having to spend a lot of time helping leaders expand their thinking about what growth in a work environment involves.

Growth and Accountability

Leaders very often forget that when empowering or growing a person, accountability is very important. I will go to great lengths to help people understand that when empowering people, just giving them the means and ability is not enough, you need to hold them accountable. You need to, in a sense, force them to engage their willingness to make a contribution.

If we say that accountability is about forcing people to focus on the contribution that they should make, we see a very significant dimension of empowerment emerge. Empowerment and growth is actually about producing mature people.

Growth and Maturity

Maturation is a process, and like any process it is concerned with an incremental progression from a beginning to an end. It happens step by step.

This process of maturation is very interesting. Each step of the journey of maturation has the same structure. The degree to which you deal with the world on the basis of wanting to get something out of the world, rather than on the basis of making a contribution, is the degree to which the motive you are taking into the moment will fail in the fullness of time. In the fullness of time everything that you do to achieve an outcome in your interest will be brought to failure and it will be brought to failure by the other. The house you build will cave in.

We see this most clearly with an infant. An infant is here to get unconditionally. An infant is like an emperor. His assumption is the world is there for him. At first this is seen to be appropriate, which is why good parents are indulgent toward infants and acquiesce to the demand.

However, over time the infant is no longer that helpless, and the brazen attitude of “I’m here to get, unconditionally”, gets seen as irksome and inappropriate. Incrementally and increasingly the other resists this behaviour. The parent does not necessarily come running the second there is a demand.

This resistance has a constructive outcome. Over time, the young Napoleon realises that he cannot just demand or take, because that gets resisted. He has to be nice – he has to give something to get what he wants. The behaviour of the adult creates the resistance which then forces him to review his motive.

So, we see that each moment of growth has the same structure. We want to do what is good for ourselves, for our immediate benefit and interests. The other reads that intent and over a period of time, it brings that intent to failure, or challenges that. That challenge enables the self to review the self’s intent.

Accountability is the tool in the leaders’ hands to deal with intent. To keep those below them engaged on the consistent revision of their intent or deeper motive in order to become a mature person concerned with making a contribution.


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