To bring the best out of others I need to be able to empower them. What do we mean by the word ’empower’? eco-green-empowermentAccording to the dictionary it is:

– to give someone the right or power to do something.

– to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

Here is how Theordore Roosevelt put it:
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

But this does not come naturally or easily.

The life of Henry Ford illustrates that (see the previous post – How Secure Are You?). John Maxwell’s 12th Law of Leadership says that only strong leaders have the confidence to give power to others.

In India there is a phrase about how people as they seek to rise in companies can have a  tendency to “kiss up and kick down.” One of the problems with that philosophy is its the same people who you meet when you go down as well as when you go up! They say if you collect crabs in a container you do not need to put a lid on the container as the crabs will automatically prevent any one of their group form escaping by ensuring that they are dragged back in! We humans can act like crabs to each other as well.

But the fact is only when we empower others can we and our organisations reach their  full potential.

Empowering others is actually an inside job first and it means overcoming at least 3 barriers:

1. My fear of looking weak.
When I see someone succeeding or doing better than me then there is the temptation to become defensive and controlling. Growing up in a school where there was a lot of competition between the boys, there was a tendency amongst ourselves to not want to help or encourage one another in case the other person did better than you. In a work or job situation truly weak leaders worry that if they help subordinates then they themselves will become indispensable. The fact is that in reality the opposite is the case. The paradox is that the only way to make yourself indispensable is to make yourself dispensable. By continually empowering others you help them develop so they eventually become capable of taking over your job – but the systems and processes you put in place  will also make you indispensable to the organisation. Working as a psychiatrist with a new junior doctor every six months my aim is to over that period of time equip them to be able to confidently handle almost all situations that can arise.

2. My fear of change.
They say that the only person who likes change is a baby in a dirty nappy! John Steinbeck puts it more eloquently when he says, “It is the nature of man as he grows older to protest against change, particularly change for the better.” The problem with that is there is no growth without change. To make progress change has to occur, and even more so in a world of rapid technological transition. The challenge is being able to discern what needs to stay the same (core values and principles) and what has to change (ineffective systems and processes).

3. My fear that I will not be valued by myself or others.
This is really about being self-conscious. If I am too focussed on myself, worrying about how I look, what others think or whether I am liked or not then I cannot take responsibility to lead or grow. As someone has once said, “You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” In contrast the best leaders have a strong sense of their self-worth so that they have confidence in their abilities, their mission and their people. When I take my eyes off myself then I am more interested in getting the job done than who actually gets the credit. It is great leaders who ultimately gain authority by giving it away.

In the next post we will look at the life of a great leader who lived by the Law of Empowerment.

What are your thoughts on these internal barriers to growth?