Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what needs to be done, and enough self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Empowerment suggests that leaders find other leaders, build them up, give them resources, authority, responsibility, the power to act and accountability for their actions.
Only empowered people can reach their potential. Road blocks within an organization that cannot be overcome exist when a leader cannot or will not empower others. Consequently, people will give up and move to another organization where they can maximize their potential. So why doesn’t every leader empower their employees? Unfortunately, there are barriers to empowerment. The barriers that cause leaders to violate the laws of empowerment, or undermine their best people, relate to insecurities.
Desire for job security
The No. 1 enemy of empowerment is job security. There is a misconception from weak leaders that they will bedispensible if they help subordinates. However, the opposite is true. Leaders make themselves more indispensible by making themselves dispensable. When real leaders empower others to take over many of their responsibilities, they have more time to take on bigger responsibilities. As a result, they become indispensable to the organization.
Resistance to change
Change is tough. An important point to remember is that empowerment, by its nature, brings constant change. It encourages growth and innovation. The resulting products and services equate to progress. The price of progress is change.
Lack of self-worth
Personal value and self-esteem is often gained from work or a position. Threatening to change either one threatens self-worth. Giving up control of a certain aspect of the company or a prized project may cause weaker leaders to think that they are incompetent. On the contrary, it can be beneficial to relinquish some immediate control. This actually frees up time to work on new initiatives and display latent talents. Leadersmust have confidence in their abilities. Those who have self-confidence are not afraid of change and believe thatthey can influence their environment.
It is critical in management to work through any barriers to empowerment, because its power is strong. Great things happen when you give others responsibility and credit for what they have accomplished. Secure leaders are able to do this. The key to empowering others is a high belief in people. Empowerment is a powerful tool, not only for the person being developed, but also for the leader or mentor.
Empowerment at work
To illustrate the power of empowerment, three recent college graduates met as new employees at a large Fortune 500 company. After a few months at the company, they saw a need for a new employee group that would allow them to meet other new employees in their business function and tolearn about the company’s different divisions. They designed a group that focused on professional development, retention, community involvement and socializing. With a rough idea, they got backing from the head ofhuman resources, as well as some top executives. The executives even went so far as to allocate a budget for the group. This type of experimental group could have easily been stamped out, but the new employees were empowered to run the group as they saw fit.
Through this empowerment, the members gained a sense of identity, which helped them to acclimate quicker. They also developed increased business relationships and improved their leadership abilities early in their careers. In addition, the leaders of the company received improved retention rates, a strong recruiting tool, more versatility, happier employees and stronger future leaders.
Enlarging others makes you larger: You are able to accomplish much more than you ever could on your own.