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Empowerment: An Essential Skill for the Transformational Leader

Written by Terri Wallin


Leaders strive to do their best for the organization and the members of their staff.  That ambition for high performance drives some leaders to attempt to control and usurp the authority they have given. This type of leadership actually disempowers and destroys the very people you, as a transformational leader, are attempting to empower. This story illustrates what can go wrong when leaders lack this critical skill. 

Empower_Achieve_TransformNancy is new to the organization and is the chief executive officer (CEO).  She is quickly inundated with operational activity and a variety of organizational projects.  In order to manage her workload she asks one of her star-performing operational vice presidents, Maria, to take lead on an important organizational initiative.  Maria jumps in and begins researching and studying the assignment.  Maria is extraordinary in performance and is the kind of performer who is 10 steps ahead of the leader with just about any project.  She easily engages people into project activity, which enables her to appropriately delegate and oversee the work.

After thoroughly studying and developing the project plan, Maria presents everything to Nancy beautifully and flawlessly.  While Maria has the authority to execute without presenting the materials to Nancy, Nancy insisted on seeing everything before moving forward.  After reviewing, Nancy makes a decision on the plan and takes full credit organizationally for the work.

Maria begins implementing the recommendations and does so perfectly.  All stakeholders actively engage and the actual implementation day is uneventful due to the precise planning and execution of the implementation plan.  The outcomes are achieved and continue to be sustained over time.

Because the results are so profound, the organization receives statewide recognition.  CEO Nancy is asked to present the research and outcomes at a state conference.  She presents the work of Maria and her team, but fails to give credit.  Maria and her colleagues are in the audience listening.  Nancy reviews the incredible results the organization is achieving because of the implementation plan and processes.  To Nancy’s surprise, the project is entered by the state organization that sponsored the conference, to be considered for a national award.  The award is given to Nancy’s organization and she is invited to accept the award.  She receives incredible recognition and praise for the results.  Meanwhile, Maria watches the activities from afar.

While this is an extreme example, variations of this happen every day.  As leaders, if we desire to get the most from employees and consequently transform the organization, we must empower them completely.  In addition we must applaud them for the results they achieve and ensure the credit is given locally and throughout the world if applicable.  To steal someone’s thunder is the quickest way to undermine a transformational organization and environment.  It creates mediocre teams and an environment that is passive aggressive or aggressive – where everyone is on their own to win.

Empowerment is the greatest gift a leader gives.  Essential ingredients to empower employees include:

  1. Clarity with directions, timelines, and budget;
  2. Full authority to do the task or role with an open door for questions and suggestions;
  3. Modeling appreciation of work done well publicly and privately to the employee.

Do you empower your employees?  Do you give them credit consistently?  When you look over the last few projects or assignments, is there opportunity for you to grow as a transformational leader relating to empowering employees?

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