A leader needs others in order to get things done. In order to move agendas, go after goals, and achieve results, you’re going to need other people in your corner. The very notion of organizations implies that things have to occur in a collective. In order for me to achieve what I need to achieve, I have to recognize my dependence, and interdependence, on you. The Lone-Ranger mindset rarely, if ever, works.
While this seems apparent, mundane, and obvious, it’s something that leaders consistently fail to recognize. Leaders that believe they need other people do so on a visceral level. This belief becomes part of their leadership persona. Truly successful leaders seem to be constantly aware and focused on the challenge of bringing people together around a common goal. This commitment to collective activity, this deep understanding that they can’t do it alone is the backbone of their leadership style.
Building a group requires that leaders truly understand the notion of “empowerment.” As empowerment has evolved in the workplace, from the women’s movement to the civil rights movement, its core definition remains the same. Empowerment is the capacity to give others the opportunity to self-actualize, self-express, and have input and influence.
Today nearly all leaders respond favorably to the notion of empowering others. Obviously, there are those who operate within an authoritative, centralized paradigm, but they still understand the importance of empowering those in their corner.
When we talk about empowerment today, we don’t make the distinction between those who don’t empower others and those who do. Instead, how leaders empower is what is important.
Leaders who delegate empower by “giving” others power, as if power were a commodity that was theirs to dispense. The process of doling out power in a top-down structure adopts the “I’ll give you something” vocabulary. Leaders who “hand-out” power may feel that they are empowering employees, but the reality is they are only reaffirming their power. They are essentially saying, “You are empowered because I choose you to be.” It’s the same thing as giving a present and expecting one in return.
Instead, leaders should recognize that their employees have power because of the work, experience, and ability they bring to the table. Power isn’t distributed from a mountain top, it needs to be affirmed by walking around and asking for support one person or group at a time.
Most leaders don’t need a lesson in the importance of empowerment. It’s accepted that empowered employees will work with more focus, energy, and common sense when they are allowed to take responsibility and personal or creative control. Leaders need to take the next step and make sure they are empowering others in the right way. Simply “giving” others power and increased duties isn’t enough. Leaders need to reaffirm the ability, inherent strength, and natural power an employee has. You’re not the Lone-Ranger and you need to avoid passing out power like a kid forced to share his candy.