The truth about empowerment is that it’s powerful. When a leader, schoolteacher, or parent allows those they are responsible for or have authority over to grow and expand their potential, that is exponential power!
When you empower others, you give them the license to develop and the freedom to express their talents and abilities to expand themselves and the organization.
“Empowerment has an incredible high return” (John Maxwell,2007). Empowerment is a win-win for everyone in the organization, including the employee’s life, because it helps them find meaning and purpose in their work.
To quote John Seely Brown, an expert in organizational studies, “The job of leadership today is not just to make money, it is to make meaning.”
Research shows that when an employee finds meaning in their work, they are more productive, more energetic, and have a sense of mental and physical wellbeing.
It saddens me greatly when I come across leaders who fail to empower their employees. This creates barriers within the organization that the employee cannot overcome. If these barriers remain, people leave the organization to find other organizations where they can expand and express their talents and abilities. Hence, the Great Resignation, which dominated the headlines in 2021.
There are three main reasons that leaders fail to empower their workers
- Job security
- Resistance to change
- Lack of self-worth
Fear is the big enemy of progress—fear of losing our positions or status. So, we cross our arms to growth in our lives, which affects others. We worry about ourselves and what we may lose if we help our subordinates. With this frame of mind, we believe we will become dispensable, which creates a weak leader. This leader does not value the organization; therefore, the leader becomes a liability. The truth is when you empower others; you empower yourself. This is a powerful concept; when you elevate others, you elevate yourself. Personally, it’s an exhilaration unimaginable when I see people grow into leadership positions that I once held. When you become valuable to the organization, you become indispensable.
Resistance to change
Coming up through the military ranks, I found that the military was ever-evolving, with new training, new equipment, and new policies. This was because, in the bigger picture, the world was changing, new enemies were on the rise, and threats to our national security and their militaries were introducing more sophisticated weaponry, which threatened our sovereignty as a nation.
To stay competitive in this changing world, we had to make modifications to our forces, so a change was inevitable.
When you empower people, you encourage them to grow and innovate, as change equals progress. In the military, change was an accepted norm. To maintain the competitive edge in any organization, change is inevitable.
Effective leaders embrace change, leaders are agents of change.
As a leader, if you are self-conscious about how you look or what people will think of you when you stand in front of them, you will not be an effective leader, as you do not have the confidence to lead others.
“Self-conscious people rarely become good leaders” (John Maxwell).
Throughout my life, when in leadership positions both in the military and in civilian life, I was not always well-liked, but I was fair. I always had this adage to work my way out of a job. So, when I saw a subordinate desiring more responsibility, they were mentored and trained in the next highest position. When they proved they could handle the next step, they were put in a position of authority. I was very successful in this approach in developing leaders within the organization.
Throughout my years, I developed “thick skin.” Leaders must have a strong sense of self-worth. As a leader, you must believe in yourself and the mission, then people will believe in the mission also.
I love the phrase “follow me”. This saying refers to an army infantry soldier charging forward into battle while suggesting others follow them. This should be a leader’s motto, not being self-conscious of what others think.
My encouragement to you is that empowerment of individuals assures individual and organizational success. This translates into the organization having a competitive advantage in its industry. This also enhances the workplace culture within the organization. Remember, whatever leadership role you play in the organization, if you allow people to be creative, innovative, and have the freedom to grow and develop, your job becomes easy. You begin to work your way out of that job and transition to a new one. Think of yourself as a servant and not the taskmaster as a leader.
Maxwell, J (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Harper Collins Leadership.
The Carolyle Destiny Group
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