That is a tough question to answer! Until our foundations are shaken it is very difficult to determine how secure in ourselves we actually are. You only know how deep down your roots go when either the challenges and storms of life come or when there is success. By then it is often too late. (For more on dealing with the storms of life see here).

TMW_-_Ford_Model_T_2The 12th law of leadership from John Maxwell says that only secure leaders give power to others. When we are not secure in ourselves it is very easy to look at others with an attitude of inferiority or of lack. To feel that their progress or advance is a threat to my value or self-worth.

How often have you said to yourself, “Its much easier if I just do it myself. I know what is best and right and no one else can or should interfere.” I know I have and it can be a sign of insecurity.

A case example of the Law of Empowerment is Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. In 1903 the main form of transportation was the horse and cart with longer distance travel by train. In towns and cities the horse and cart dominated streets. One of the big public health questions was how are we going to cope with the amount of horse manure on the streets – if it keeps on increasing at its present rate we will be literally drowning in the stuff!

It is in that context Henry Ford made the following statement:

“I will build a motor car for the multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessings of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

The quote is similar in its visionary quality to that of Bill Gates in 1980 when he said, “A computer on every desk and in every home.” What was almost prophetic about this statement was at the time Microsoft did not even make computers and hardly anyone saw a need for them. Many of us have seen the outworking of Gates’ vision in our own life times. In fact, we have now gone way past Gates’ vision as with smartphones and tablets there are more around (7 billion) than people on the planet with the projection that by 2020 80% of all adults will own and be using one.

Coming back to Henry Ford, Ford saw comparable success with his Model T as the face of 20th century American life was transformed. The car was introduced in 1908, making up 50% of all cars by 1914 and with a total of over 15 million manufactured by 1927.

But in spite of all this apparent success Henry Ford was not a secure leader and he did not live by the Law of Empowerment. He was so in love with his Model T that he did not want to make any change or improvement to it. In 1922 Ford wrote in his autobiography, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”.

Ford was so resistant to changing his Model T that when a group of his designers surprised him by presenting him with the prototype of an improved model, he is reported to have furiously ripped its doors off the hinges and proceeded to destroy the car with his bare hands. It was only by 1927 that he grudgingly agreed to offer a new car to the public.

Ford’s apparent success made him more eccentric as he undermined his leaders and looked over the shoulders of his people. He even created a so-called Sociological Department within the motor company. Thousands of immigrants and migrants came to Detroit to work at what was then an extremely generous $5 a day pay rate. This department had investigators who monitored employees at home, as well as on the job. They made unannounced visits to employee’s homes and evaluated the cleanliness of the home, noted if the family had renters, checked with school attendance offices to determine if children were attending school and monitored bank records to verify that employees made regular deposits. Sociological Department investigators also assisted worker’s families by teaching wives about home care, cooking and hygiene. Although well- intentioned such actions were disempowering to others.

Ford also did not believe in accountants. He amassed one of the world’s largest fortunes without ever having his company audited under his administration. He apparently once went into his accounting office and tossed the company’s books into the street, saying, “Just put all the money we take in a big barrel and when a shipment of material comes in reach into the barrel and take out enough money to pay for it.”

Historians comment that the company only managed to stay afloat and in business because of Henry Ford’s son Edsel who worked hard around his father to keep the company going.

In the next blog post we will look at how The Law of Empowerment can make such a difference to our lives.

Please feel free to leave your comments and observations.