February 28, 2010

Leadership Tip: Empowering Others

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver
five minutes longer."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m a powerful person. Now, I’m not a power-hungry person at all, and I don’t even get excited about being the ultimate “decider” of what our family eats for dinner, but rather, I’m powerful in the sense that I can do good for other people every, single day. You are a powerful person too. If you don’t think you are, you should step back and think again. As a leader, you support a lot of women in our League who go out and do good in our communities… and that is incredibly powerful. I want to take a minute and encourage all League leaders to use their power to empower others.

The following is an excerpt from The LeaderShape® Institute. (I had the opportunity to attend LeaderShape while in college, and then help facilitate a session after college, and it has sincerely shaped me into the person I am today.)

Power is the ability to influence others and get things done. It is not a negative concept. In fact, it is only when power is wielded through intimidation, manipulation, or for personal gain that the concept becomes a negative one. You need not apologize for utilizing power if you’re thoughtful and responsible about its use. Leaders, however, always need to consider: who they are leading, why they are leading, why they are interested in having power, and how they can be most effective.
Empowerment is the process of sharing so that others have a sense of autonomy and control. Empowering is a leap of faith for many leaders and often feels risky because you are consciously giving up control and trusting others so they can perform independently – and be held accountable.
Empowerment works only under two conditions: When people are qualified to do the job and when the transfer of assignments doesn’t appear to be dumping of responsibilities. It’s inappropriate, for example, to give people tasks for which they don’t have the knowledge or skills. In this instance, a leader is only setting up someone to lose face – and power – when the job is poorly done. Likewise, to delegate simply to get the monkey off your back is an irresponsible use of empowerment.
How, then, do leaders empower? First, by giving people important work to do on critical issues. Allow people autonomy over their work by giving them projects from beginning to end. Recognize the talents and skills of those in your organization and delegate tasks to match skills so that people will succeed! Trust people to do the job, even if it’s not done your way. Finally, create an environment where people are recognized for their efforts, where people are coached and encouraged if they need help, and where people’s strengths and unique qualities are valued.
The positive aspects of empowering others is that people will begin to self-motivate (all leaders dream of this!), they will work harder, and they will receive greater personal satisfaction for their efforts all of which results in a stronger organization.

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