• Kathy Miles

How to be an Empowering Leader


It can be said that although there are many leadership styles out there, the business world is essentially made up of two types of leaders:

Type 1 - Those that seek power - These leaders love control, they like being in charge - the person that people look up to and come to for an answer. These types of leaders usually want to maintain control at all costs and their primary concern will always be what is best for them. While there are some leaders that seek power for powers sake, many leaders operate under this method of leadership for a host of other reasons including:

  • A lack of training;

  • A lack of trust in their employees;

  • Negative consequences previously experienced due to providing others with responsibility or too much trust;

  • Too much responsibility/work or pressure; or

  • A lack of skilled/experienced employees.

Type 2 - Those that seek to empower - These leaders want to empower the people around them to succeed. They lead through motivation, inspiration, encouragement and delegation. They provide people with the necessary tools, resources, authority, encouragement and support to be able to succeed. Their primary concern is on group success and empowering others.

When we look back at the great leaders of our time, be it in the workplace, business, sport, politics or otherwise, the leaders we remember the most are those that empowered others, that left a lasting impression on the world.

Now I know there are some Type 1 leaders who have also left a lasting impression, Adolf Hitler to name one, he definitely fitted this archetype of a leader who was seeking power and control. He wanted to control the world and have the final say about who was and who wasn't allowed to live. While we may remember these leaders, it is for all the wrong reasons.

Whereas, the Type 2 leaders we remember for their ability to inspire, lead, encourage and motivate others. People like Richard Branson, Joan of Arc, Tony Robbins, Warren Buffet, Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi to name just a few. If you look back through time, there are many great leaders that became great because they empowered others.

What Does Empowering Others Mean?

To empower basically means to give someone the authority or power to do something.

According to businessdictionary.com "Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well as holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction."

Why Should Leaders Empower their Employees?

If a leader was to describe a list of their pet hates about being a leader, I'm sure that one would likely be team members that cannot take accountability, responsibility or 'think for themselves'.

So why does this constantly happen?

Well it's simple really - we work with humans, and humans are programmed to constantly look for approval and acceptance. We are so focussed on doing a good job in order to maintain our position and gain approval through positive feedback or rewards, that we are constantly questioning whether we are doing it right. This means that when a leader delegates a task, they are then often bombarded with constant questions and 'checking in' activities which take up the leader's valuable time.

Leaders rely on being able to delegate tasks and responsibilities to their employees. For this to function effectively it requires empowered employees. By a leader empowering his or her team - both individually and collectively - they can instill the confidence, motivation and responsibility needed for staff to complete tasks and projects successfully on their own terms. It also means that the team can function more efficiently, with less direct supervision and less communication but more action.

Leaders need to understand that empowering their employees not only allows for the self-development and enrichment of the employee's work life but, it also benefits the leader, the entire organisation and the workplace culture.

Empowered employees are happy, confident, positive, productive and engaged employees. This translates into every avenue of the business from the customers down to the products and services offered ensuring higher productivity and performance.

3 Steps to Empowering Others to Succeed

The process of empowering others to succeed can be broken down into three key steps:

1. Identify:
The first step is to:
  • Identify team members than can be empowered;

  • Identify their key experience/skills and knowledge that can be entrusted in (e.g. reporting, presentations, processing etc); and

  • Identify a successful outcome whereby the individual can apply these skills.

2. Measure:
The second step is to measure. All employees need to have a clear sense of their responsibilities and their key performance indicators (KPI's) with timelines. When someone is being empowered to develop, it is vital that the tasks are defined with an achievable outcome that can be measured.

For example, if a manager seeks to empower an employee to undertake their first ever presentation, there should be criteria established that the task can be measured on, such as:

  • Were all the key messages communicated?

  • How well did the audience understand the information?

  • Was the presenter engaging the audience throughout the presentation (through body language, tone, questions etc)?

  • What went well in the presentation?

  • What can be improved in the presentation?

After the presentation, the leader can then provide feedback immediately against this task. This in-the-moment feedback allows individuals to know exactly how they are tracking, rather than needing to wait for the annual performance appraisal. This fosters trust, honesty and open communication between the leader and employees, all of which help to develop empowered employees.

3. Improvement & Innovation:
The final step is to encourage continuous improvement and innovation.
The only way that anything can ever improve is for us to first understand and accept that there is something that needs to be improved upon. Employees, due to their need to gain approval and acceptance, are usually averse to taking risks. This can result in employees sticking to what they know their strengths are and avoiding anything that may take them out of their comfort zone, such as being innovative, taking initiative or risk-taking. This also means that you are potentially not getting the best from these employees and they are definitely not being empowered to grow and develop.
Leaders who empower their employees encourage them to take risks, be innovative and continuously improve. They provide employees the opportunity to have a go in a safe and supported environment. Some examples of this are:
  • Seeking employee's ideas in a mind-mapping session and then talking through these ideas among the team to determine how they can be achieved and the best way forward.

  • Allowing team members to proceed with a project but setting clear milestones and having team meetings when each milestone is reached.

  • Pairing team members up to try something new - such as a presentation or report.

Leaders can empower their employees to be more decisive, work under their own initiative and also in turn, empower other employees based on these three steps.

Kathy Miles has trained hundreds of management and leadership courses across Australia and is well placed to develop and facilitate a customised leadership program for your organisation. Contact PDI Solutions today for a free consultation at info@pdisolutions.com.au or visit our website at pdisolutions.com.au

#Empowerment #EmpoweringLeader #Leadership

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© 2015 PDI Solutions (Trading as Kathleen J Miles)

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