Infinite Autonomy

Autonomy is every bit a double edged sword. It’s the exciting right of self-government! It fuels innovation and employee satisfaction. But unchecked, or misdirected, autonomy can pull an organization in all the wrong directions. Striking a healthy balance between agency and accountability is every leader’s burden.

When these two values are pitted against one another there are many potential side effects. Diminished agency can brood distrust, while reduced accountability threatens structural integrity. Luckily, there is a uniting force that can align both values: common purpose.

Defining a common purpose is foundational to success. Without this crucial step, bystander syndrome is just as dangerous as rogue ambition. Measurables become arbitrary because they are relative. But when everyone clearly understands the mission, accountability and autonomy are allowed to synergize.

When lacking common purpose, these values are at odds. One is sacrificed for the other. The result is an unspoken tug-o-war between leader and follower. This is a path toward resentment.


The thing we must understand is that while accountability is enforced constraint, autonomy is infinite potential. With this mindset, accountability becomes a support structure for autonomy — keeping it on the right path rather than corralling it to a finite limit.


“Vision & Values” aren’t to be viewed as corporate jargon. They are a set of coordinates, marking a destination. Great leaders protect individual autonomy by setting clear goals. Great followers submit to accountability by internalizing and prioritizing those goals.

To the autonomous worker:

🔎 Demand Clarity

🎯 Aim Unswervingly

🧪 Iterate Thoughtfully

To the trusting leader:

🫵 Point Clearly

🤑 Resource Generously

🎉 Celebrate Religiously

This is an atomic essay by Mike Vance