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Use your power to empower others
December 4, 2020

Use your power to empower others

I try to model good work ethic for those whom I supervise.  But when does a leader stop being a model for others and start to become an excuse for them to do nothing?  In trying to empower others by being a model, the leader may paradoxically dis-empower them. 

Empowerment is paradoxical.  Only those who have power can empower others.  Yet, others will only be truly empowered when the one who has the power in the first place gives it up. 

Some leaders choose to stay in their position long after they should because they are reluctant to give up power and truly empower others.   This is disempowering and it is why leadership transitions are so difficult for some persons and organizations to manage.  

A leader is charged with making decisions and vested with power to do that.  

How can a leader use power carefully in order to empower rather than disempower others? 

  • Use power instrumentally – to achieve a goal or a task,
  • Don’t use power personally – to promote oneself or retaliate against another.

By staying focused on the instrumental use of power, the leader can avoid disempowering others. 

The leader can further empower others when they “explain the why” for a decision.   Doing so helps others understand the leader’s use of power in making the decision.  

Of course, sometimes, the leader does not have the time to explain everything before exercising power.  In this case, take some time afterwards to process the action with the team so they will understand the decision process.   Doing so will be good preparation for the next decision.

Also remember that some people, for whatever reason, feel disempowered no matter what the leader does. The leader cannot be everything to everyone.   The leader’s responsibility is to exercise power to get things done and as part of that exercise engage and empower their team.

Some questions to consider?

  • What things do you do as a leader that empower others?
  • How do you know if the people you lead feel empowered?
  • When did your supervisor do something to dis-empower you?
  • What might you say to the supervisor about that situation?

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