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As a leader, the constant flow of leadership trends and buzz words can be over-whelming and it can be difficult to know how to ‘filter out the noise’ and focus on those which will bring real results. One such phrase that is appearing more and more in the leadership literature is; ‘Empowering your People’, but what does it really mean? Why is it so important? And how should you go about empowering your people?
Last week I was reminded of the incredible impact that empowering your people can have, as I sat down to watch Comic Relief. Empowerment is about giving people the power and authority to think, react, make decisions, initiate and innovate. Comic Relief are experts at this – instead of buying a year’s worth of food for a village in Africa, they buy the tools and give the training required to enable villagers to grow their own food year after year. The benefits of empowering people are;
These benefits are not unique to the groups and communities who receive help from charities such as Comic Relief, they are the characteristics of any and every empowered team.
There are three main reasons why leaders fail to make the move towards empowerment: trust, mindset and fear.
Trust – Critical to empowering your people is trust, but many leaders just do not have the confidence in their team to deliver the required results. It is essential that the leader takes ownership of this – if you don’t trust your team, then why not? Is it because they lack the skills or training? Or is it because the team are lacking a Culture of Accountability? Whatever the answer, as the leader you are responsible for this – you must ensure your team receive the required training and it is you who must bring about a culture of accountability.
Mindset – Mindset over what a leader should be and do is a big obstacle to change. The ‘traditional’ definition of a leader is of someone who is ‘in control, who takes charge and who delegates tasks’. But that definition of leadership is outdated – the weakening of the economy has forced businesses to take a closer look at the way in which their leaders and teams operate and the pressure on them to deliver is greater than ever before. Leadership is now all about empowering your people in order to reach individual, team and organisational potential. Leaders need to make the shift from the more traditional, dictatorial style of leadership to that of coach.
Fear – Fear accompanies any kind of change, but when it comes to empowering your people, leaders often experience fear around their own future as leader. After all, if your team are empowered to act freely and, as a result are performing more effectively, why would there still be need for a leader? Leaders in this position need to remember that outstanding team performance can only come about from outstanding leadership and that empowerment is not just about arming your team with everything they need and then packing them off, never to see them again – it’s about continual development and improvement and it’s the responsibility of the leader to provide this.
Fear for leaders may also come about in recognition that empowering your people is not the easy option – it will require the leader to hold everybody to account, to put in place clear boundaries and ultimately to trust. For those used to maintaining involvement in every aspect of their team’s performance, the thought of taking a step back and holding people to account for their successes and failures can be scary.
Next week we continue the theme of empowering your people by exploring how leaders can address these obstacles to change and set about empowering their people to greatness. (Read Part 2.)