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TBM 245: True Empowerment
There's a fine line between empowerment and absolving oneself of responsibility.
Effective delegation is a key leadership skill. The key is discerning when delegation is used to empower others and get things done (and get out of the way) versus when we use it to avoid responsibility.
Delegation alone is not true empowerment. True empowerment fosters an environment where teams have the resources, support, and confidence to take action. Empowerment is standing by your team regardless of the outcome and taking responsibility for wins and setbacks.
Preaching the benefits of decentralized decision-making and moving fast is easy. It is much harder to move beyond the buzzwords and worship of speed and take full responsibility for what transpires. What happens when things go wrong is so much more telling than what happens when it's all working.
Checking LinkedIn, I've been struck lately by what could be best described as a leadership crisis (mixed with all the normal Sinek-ian leadership cosplay). When everything was on the up and up, everyone loved empowerment and all the speed, budget, and kudos that came with it. But now things are different—no more fair-weather captains.
All that decentralization is suddenly red tape.
Empowerment is viewed as a liability unless you're "empowering" someone to do your dirty work.
Suddenly, things are "beyond our control" and "not my call."
It’s not (or maybe never was)…true empowerment.
Some questions to consider:
Are you stepping up or stepping back when challenges arise?
When things go wrong, is your first instinct to find a solution or find someone to blame?
Are you truly empowering your team or just handing off tasks you don't want?
How do you support your team during setbacks? Is it different from when they succeed?
When did you take full responsibility for a mistake without shifting blame?
Are your actions consistent with your words, especially regarding empowerment?
How do you ensure your team has the necessary resources and support, especially in tough times?
How would your team describe your leadership style during challenges?
Do you lead differently in private than in public? If so, why?