In our work we hear the word ‘empowerment’ a lot. I have to confess I’m not a big fan of this word. It is over-used and perpetuates a hierarchical, “I have power and if you’re good I’ll share some with you” view of leadership. In a business environment typified by constant and fast-paced change, we need to empower less and lead more. We need leadership that creates the conditions in which people will engage and maximize their contribution – willingly.
How do we do this? We knock down barriers for people. We listen when they come to us with their challenges. We attend to the reality they present and diagnose the situation with them. We determine with them whose responsibility it is to take on the challenge and resolve the situation. If we need to take it on, we do. If the responsibility lay with them, we give them the tools they will need either through coaching or instruction. Through this we create the conditions for success – theirs, the team’s and the organization’s.
When we empower our people we remind them that we have the power. When we lead people we remind them that they have the power. Leadership is an invitation to others to step into their own leadership. It is more about “en-courage-ment” than em-power-ment. I’ll bet that as the pace of change quickens and things become more complex, our organizations would benefit from a few more courageous leaders who face change and lead through it. What do you think?