I have been a fan and avid support of true empowerment of people and organizations. It is about sharing your information, experience, network, power and influence for the better of someone else. It is servant leadership at its best. Yes, it is about leadership and not management. Why do I even mention this distinction? Because it matters a GREAT deal.
As empowerment, Agile, Lean principles are becoming increasingly popular more and more managers embrace these ideas. They claim to be honestly interested in trying them out in their organizations and teams. This is good news and a noble act. Alas, it means nothing if the manager in charge does not truly understand the underlying concept and philosophy of empowerment. It is no longer about him or her, it is about helping others become successful. This is really difficult for traditional managers. Having to let go of their old concept of power and influence. Letting go of their own “safety” net and build one for others. Oha!
So, while I am usually excited when I hear managers talk about empowerment, empowering people or strong teams I have learned to become curious about their motivations behind it. It is always good to question what made them change their old style of managing and instead “embracing” something new. Indeed, embracing may not be the correct word. For if you truly embrace an idea you become one with it. You follow through, show your willingness to make mistakes and learn from them without giving up after the first downfall and then returning to the old school.
Empowerment is powerful. Much more powerful in its execution and its effects on people and organizations alike than any traditional approach. It unleashes hidden talents, helps promote collaboration, promotes performance and ensures results. But it doesn’t fall from heaven. It takes leadership of one or more people. It is them who have to drive building common vision, nurturing collaboration, promoting performance without micromanaging their teams, cultivating validated learning and ensuring that the teams deliver results and get credit for them. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome: vanity, the lust for power and influence, insecurity – and a closed vs. an open mindset whereas the latter is characterized by the willingness to make mistakes and the drive to help other people and organizations succeed for the better of all. Management on the other side, maintains and sustains the status quo, executes what is dictated from above (top-down management), allows micromanagement which kills motivation and creativity. This is why I think that traditional management is the death of empowerment.
If you want to empower people and organizations you have to practice servant leadership; for it is not about you as an individual, it is about the greater good of the environment you are living in.
I do hope that more and more people and organizations understand and follow the path of empowerment. Not for short term gains but for long term results which benefit us all. Happy Easter!