Dear Dave: I am trying to become a better manager, and I am trying to help my fellow managers become good leaders for their teams.

The problem is, some of my fellow managers say they have tried to “loosen-up” a bit and that their employees have just taken advantage of their softer style. This has caused the managers to “tighten-up” again.

This cycle just seems to repeat itself, and my fellow managers have given up on things like delegating work and trusting their teams to perform their work without strict management oversight. How can I help my fellow managers be better leaders? — C

Dear C: I think most managers want their teams to do great work without their having to monitor them to death. That is, of course, if the managers truly want their employees to become more independent and capable of motivating themselves to achieve.

I will say that there are many managers — and possibly some in your group of managers — that just plain love to ride employees like rented mules. They are a different story.

If we look at the basics of what you are asking, we have some key moving parts.

First, there is the popular leadership thought that trusted employees become more motivated employees.

Then, we have managers who may want to empower and trust their employees, believing that is the best way to lead.

Then, we may have those managers that absolutely will not give power away to their staff, because they think the employees will take advantage of them any way they can (possibly your colleagues).

And, then, we have you, who wants to be the best leader possible and you also want to help your colleagues become more trusting leaders. Be advised that your fellow managers may want you to just do your job and not become their “leadership guru.” Their thinking may be akin to the saying, “Who died and made you king?”

Out of the interactions of the elements listed above comes the culture of the teams, departments, and the company, the levels of productivity and quality, and the “brand” of the whole company — one that attracts customers and new talent, one that becomes a place where people take pride in working, and one where motivation is a key driver of success.

If we cut to the chase, the level of trust the employees have in management is determined by the level of trust the managers have in the employees. Low management trust = low employee trust. High management trust = high employee trust. So, I say, take your pick. I know which one I would want.

Be careful of what you wish for

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at conradd@augsburg.edu. Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.

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