The Power of Empowerment

Too often, delegation is mislabeled as “empowerment”. ¬†It is an easy mistake likely made more often than we each realize. ¬†Delegation and empowerment can seem very similar, especially for the naturally task-oriented leader. ¬†But considering both their components and outcomes, it is clear that the two are drastically different.
     Delegation = Responsibility

Empowerment = Responsibility + Authority

Most of us are quick to delegate responsibility. ¬†It is the fastest way to shorten a to-do list and reduce stress. ¬†But releasing authority is much more of a stretch. ¬†Authority allows other individuals to use their personal judgements to make decisions that impact organizational performance. ¬†It reduces a leader’s level of control, increasing both risk and stress. ¬†While our natural tendency is to maintain control and minimize stress, there are several reasons why empowerment is necessary to the growth of any organization.
1.  Empowerment develops leaders
I have yet to meet a leader who attributed her primary development to books or the classroom.  A combination of both failures and successes provides us with insights that further our abilities.  If you are not empowering followers, you are not making yourself replaceable.
>>Are you giving followers the opportunity to fail?
2.  Empowerment leads to innovation
Organizations get stuck when they maintain methods to the point of outdated traditions.  Additionally, your insights into a project or program may be limited by a single perspective.  Giving people the chance to explore new ways of doing things ensures that your organization is consistently creative.
>>Are you encouraging followers to break from your own ideas and innovate?
3.  Empowerment increases productivity
Getting constant approval for routine decisions takes unnecessary time from everyone’s day. ¬†From a follower’s perspective, the wait time required for you to reply to an email or schedule a meeting hinders progress. ¬†From your perspective, unnecessary involvement in decision-making reduces the amount of time you have to spend on vision and strategy, stunting the long-term growth of your organization.
>>Are you allowing followers to trust their own judgments?

Releasing authority for empowerment may reduce your level of control.  But is that more important than development, innovation, and productivity?  Take a few minutes to ask yourself the previous questions for each person you lead.
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Ryan Stigile

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