April 21, 2014

EMPOWERMENT: The Leader’s Magic

I read an amazing article the other day, Leadership: The Art of Empowering Others (http://www.jstor.org/pss/4164863).

Empowerment is where we as leaders give ownership to our people. Empowerment is often diluted by parameters and limitations which are counter-productive. We as leaders have to provide the mechanisms that support and equip our people to take on empowerment in the workplace.

The article states that empowerment is “not simply a set of external actions; it is a process of changing the internal beliefs of people.” People are powerful and often times are not in touch with their power for various reasons.

Effective leaders realize this and help their people get in touch with their power. How they do this depends on the person and what is limiting them. Leaders can hone in on this and inspire greatness. Sometimes this may involve coaching and/or mentoring to build a skill or create alignment on expectations.

I have found that 85% of a successful leader’s time is spent educating his/her people and 15% performing tasks. So, we share our knowledge which facilitates confidence the groundwork for empowerment.

Empowerment creates ownership and ownership instills pride, commitment to excellence and loyalty to the organization.

Can someone just “give” you empowerment?
YES they can. It is like a magic wand executive leaders use. They use their executive magic wand to spread empowerment dust. Empowerment dust is very expensive. Some leaders give it sparingly. After all, it may cost the company too much money. It is their power and therefore must be kept well guarded.

But, seriously—well on a more serious note—executives tend to think it is costly to “give—or share” their power. “They (employees) may not use the power responsibly”—many managers (aspiring leaders) might say.

Others have heard of its mystical results and “throw additional tasks and responsibilities” at their people in the name of “empowerment.” Then they dilute the magic further by placing so many conditions, that it becomes almost like black magic–counterproductive.

Empowerment is like respect for many leaders. It is earned. After the company does its due diligence—hiring the right people, training them, etc., empowerment can be earned as an incentive/reward for performance. This additional responsibility is earned—and when positioned properly, becomes empowerment.

Empowerment is essential in an HPO (high performing organization). Otherwise, we would have companies of automatons running around–”Yes sir, no sir…,” empowerment is the human element–the personal touch that inspires creative innovation.

So, be free with your executive magic wand and spread your empowerment dust. Yes, give your power away. It is a gift.

It does not mean you still do not have power. But, you have shared leadership, shared responsibility, shared ownership and shared success. Empowerment allows others to have a stake and take ownership in the success of the organization with direct input on the outcomes.

It may seem paradoxical, but the more power you give away, the more your power magnifies in strength. I am eager to find ways to give my power away and allow others to contribute.

I have discovered, the more secure the leader—the more they have empowered their people. Empowerment really is as simple as just giving it away. Try it, trust in your people and watch the magic they create.

Ref. Article: Leadership: The Art of Empowering Others, The Academy of Management Executive, Feb. 1989, 3, 1, ABI/Inform Global pg 17.

empowerment, management, leadership, empowering others, transformational leadership, trust, ownership

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