In his book “Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge”, Dr. Henry Cloud states that all leaders should aim towards becoming”control freaks”. In other words, leaders should be very concerned about the issue of control and how they leverage it in their leadership practice.
One main premise of restorative leadership is making a consistent, conscious choice to exercise our leadership authority (control) in a manner that is engaging, supportive and empowering of those we lead. Dr. Cloud suggests that “a sense of being in control changes people’s brains and affects their performance big time.” Further, “when you help others get a sense of what they can control in a way that affects results and empowers them to exercise that control, brains begin firing with a lot of horse-power.” This idea fits within the “WITH” box in the Social Discipline Window (T. Wachtel, 1997) and is supported by current neuroscience research. When people are functioning in ways that make sense to them and allow them to feel competent and empowered, they will be more motivated, creative and energized.
The dominant, traditional paradigm around authority is command and control (“Do what I say or else!”). This breeds resentment and possibly rebellion and is not very good for brain functioning. A restorative leadership approach, on the other hand, emphasizes empowering others to act in ways that build upon their strengths, allowing them to contribute their unique skills to the benefit of the community and grow in new and exciting ways. This is true for teachers leading students in a classroom setting or executives of an organization. Leading your class or team in a way that gives others more “voice and choice” in matters that truly impact direction will lead to an increased sense of belonging, a shared sense of responsibility and ultimately create a healthier culture and community. Implementing consistent proactive circles with teams is a very simple and effective way to accomplish this goal. Consistent check-ins about how people are feeling, what they are working on, sharing struggles, getting support from colleagues and celebrating successes help to create the type of community where people feel in control. Restorative leadership is far from giving up control, but being very intentional and wise about how we use it.