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What is Empowerment?

Filed in Blog by Tracey Davison on 3260 - 0 Comments

What is empowerment - Leadership Blog


Last week we defined leadership, outlining five core aspects of effective leadership, the first of these being empowerment.  So this week we ask “What is empowerment and why is it so critical to effective leadership?”

What is empowerment?

empower: to give someone official authority or freedom to do something
Cambridge Dictionaries Online

In the workplace, empowerment is about giving people the power and authority to think, react, make decisions, initiate and innovate.  However, it is not clear cut, there are different levels of empowerment, compounding the confusion over the question  ‘what is empowerment?’

Levels of Empowerment

There are four areas in which levels of empowerment can vary.  Within each of these four areas, there is a sliding scale that dictates the level of empowerment afforded to the individual/s:

  • Research.  At the most basic level will involve the leader dictating exactly which option/s to research.  At the other end, the leader will merely outline the brief, allowing the individual/s to look into and research the options they feel are relevant/important.  Ultimate empowerment is where the individual/s do not have to wait for a brief, but instead embark on their own research, based on their own perceived need for it.
  • Evaluation of the possible solutions.  At the most basic level, the leader will request all of the option/s be presented to them, in order to evaluate and draw their own conclusions.  At the other extreme, the leader will ask for the individual/s to weigh up the available options and make their own suggestion.
  • Decision-making.  This is about who ultimately makes the final decision and the degree to which the individual/s involved can impact that final decision.
  • Post-implementation procedure.  This refers to the level of communication required back to the leader post-implementation and can vary from a highly detailed report, right through to the leader requiring no further communication whatsoever.

Why is empowerment critical to effective leadership?

  • Builds trust between the leader and their team.
  • Heightens accountability, encouraging people to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions.
  • Promotes personal development and growth by encouraging people to challenge them selves.
  • Increases innovation and creativity by enabling people to think for them selves.
  • Heightens engagement.  Your people are far more likely to be engaged in what they’re doing if they’re actively involved in making decisions.

In conclusion

The reason it can be difficult to answer the question ‘what is empowerment?’ is that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.  For those wanting to empower their people, you must consider what you feel is right for your people and this will vary from person to person and task to task.  You need to convey your trust in their abilities and support them in tackling new challenges, but without throwing them in at the deep end without a life line.  Rather than getting hung up on defining an exact level of empowerment, instead ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • Is the individual/team being challenged to achieve more?
  • Are they being given a greater level of responsibility than afforded to them previously?
  • Do they have the hard skills and tools available that are required to complete the task?

If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you can be confident that you are empowering your people.  Read the next post in this series: What is Coaching?

Want to empower your people and heighten effectiveness?  Find out how to coach your team to success:

or read our blog post Why empowering your people is the key to unlocking their potential


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