Empowering leadership – the way to go in the 21st Century?

empowering leadership
Empowerment is where it’s at. At least that’s what a lot of leadership experts are telling us. So, what do we think? Do we agree? Is it the way forward in the 21st Century or should we keep doing what we’ve done so far – tell people clearly what they need to do and make sure they get on with it?

You haven’t done that for a long time? You’ve stopped telling a while ago? You’ve worked hard to learn the coach approach to leadership? You practise every day to ask insight-creating questions, rather than giving answers and have seen some changes in the way your workforce behaves? They take more responsibility, step forward when things need to be done, come up with their own ideas?

Hmmm, looks like there might be something in this empowerment lark after all, then?

However, all is not rosy in that bright new world. You’ve had comments like ‘I feel empowered, but I don’t know what to do?’ Sounded funny at the time, but now you’re thinking about it, it makes you wonder…

What do you need to do differently? How do you empower your people so they DO know what to do? Especially since you probably don’t always know exactly what they should be doing either… You’re pretty clear about the result you want/need them to achieve, but how they get there is their responsibility, as far as you are concerned…that’s what you are paying them for, after all…

One of the challenges with empowering leadership is that everyone needs a different form of empowerment. Some people love being given loads of room to get on with the job. Others need handholding and reassurance that their new-found freedom isn’t suddenly going to be taken away. Another group needs clear parameters and the opportunity to come back with questions. Yet another team needs something different altogether – and unless you ask them what it is, they won’t even know themselves, let alone request it of you.

What are we learning?

We need a process that ensures continuous communication, check-in points, alignment and ‘quality control’ – not only of the outcome, but of the empowerment and how effective your empowering leadership is for the people you lead.

If you’ve got a working process already, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

If you haven’t, how about starting with asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are the results you need?
  • How clear are your teams about what their contribution to achieving those results is?
  • How much space and authority do they need to make that contribution?
  • How much space and authority are you giving them?
  • How is this working for them?
  • What else do they need from you to make that contribution?
  • What ideas have they got that could accelerate progress on this?
  • What role do they want/need you to play in this?
  • How is performance going to be measured?
  • Who is going to measure performance?
  • Who is going to hold who accountable for it?
  • What are the consequences of non-/performance?

I hope this gives you something to get your teeth into and am looking forward to hearing some of your experiences on how far it got you on your journey into empowering leadership.

Author: Nicole Bachmann