I know there are a lot of leaders out there who made new year’s resolutions that they would empower more people on their team this year. Unfortunately, I can predict that the vast majority of those resolutions have gone nowhere.
But that’s the nature of resolutions. If they really worked, we’d all be 20 pounds lighter and watch less TV. Still, it’s worth looking at why the team-empowering resolution, which should be an easy one to follow through on, falls short.
Basically, empowering others involves taking a piece of our power and giving it to them. Why do so few of us do that effectively? Why is it so hard to take even just a sliver of this thing that we possess and have responsibility for and trust it to someone on our team?
The answer lies in the way some leaders look at power. They see it as a zero sum game. In other words, any power that they cede to people on their team is power lost to them. But that’s the wrong view. Giving power to others may raise them, but it doesn’t lower you.
More often, the opposite is true. As a leader, if you are seen to be in charge of an empowered, confident team, the chances are your organization will accord you even more power and authority. If you run a team that can’t handle even small actions or decisions without consulting you, the team doesn’t look good, and neither do you.
I recently sat down with a client who is a top executive at a financial institution. He told me that based on my advice, he had empowered his team. Well, almost. He had given them the power, but they hadn’t fully accepted it.
“I told them in a meeting the other day that I didn’t see any of them pushing that power,” he related to me. “That no one had in any way pushed the limits of the authority I gave them, and that told me that they weren’t taking advantage of the power opportunity.”
He challenged his team members to expand the bounds of that power. To think of and implement changes that will help the organization progress, achieve greater growth, reduce costs, and solve problems.
He’s going to have to keep after his team to be sure they follow through. The problem may be that the team may have worked too long in an empowerment-free culture, and it might take time for them to adapt to thinking, and acting, on their own. He will have to continue to lead them to full empowerment.
John Maxwell wisely observes that it is only secure leaders who empower others. I urge you to be that secure leader. Share some of your power with others, make sure they take advantage of it, and you will see positive changes in your organization that will benefit you and everyone who works with you.