By: Eric Betts
One of the secret keys of leadership is the ability to empower others and help them to become the best version of themselves for the good of the organization and its cause. John C. Maxwell, leadership success expert, writes about the law of empowerment. Many leaders make the mistake of viewing those they lead as competitors. Due to the spirit of competition, many leaders fail to encourage and equip those they lead because they believe that their growth will force them (the leaders) to be replaced. John Maxwell argues the reverse. He suggests that empowering other makes leaders irreplaceable. The leader who empowers holds the position that the persons operating in the system are not competitors but team-mates.
Empowerment means to give someone the authority or power to do something: Additionally, empowerment means to make (someone) stronger and more confident. It also means to unchain, unshackle and equip. Empowerment happens when a leader has the skills and intelligence to create success, but delegates someone else to do it for the good of the organization.
President Theodore Roosevelt stated: “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.”
When a leader empowers others, according to Maxwell, they must believe in those they are leading and help them maximize their gifts and abilities for the success of the overall organization. Successful leaders know how to empower others through believing in them, placing their confidence in them, giving them room to make mistakes, and giving them the credit for their accomplishments. Empowerment also means delegating responsibility.
Maxwell argues that the law of empowerment is not often understood, due to how many are uneducated about what it means to be a leader. Maxwell brilliantly exposes why so many fail to become empowering leaders through two games that are learned as children: King of the Hill and Follow the Leader.
What was the object of King of the Hill? To knock other people down so that you can be the leader. And what’s the point in Follow the Leader? You do things you know followers can’t do to separate yourself from them and make yourself look more powerful. The problem with those games is that to win, you have to make all of the other people lose. The games are based on insecurity and the opposite of the way to raise up leaders.
Those who are not empowered by one organization’s leader may very well go to another organization where they can maximize their potential.
The main disincentive for leaders empowering others is the false notion that they will fade into insignificance and thus become disempowered. However, this is far from the truth and a wrongheaded way to lead. Such a mindset actually exposes the weaknesses, insecurities, and low self-esteem of the leader. Successful leaders can simultaneously empower others while maintaining supreme confidence in themselves. They fear giving others credit for fear of not being acknowledged for their personal achievements.
When leaders empower others, they are helping the organization succeed and their efforts will not go unnoticed. They will be applauded for their efforts to build the organization by allowing other to develop and grow. However, the successful leader does not look for applause, but believes in the goals of the organization, and is fulfilled when those goals are successful. This the heart of a true leader. They do not focus on enriching themselves but empowering others. Everyone benefits, including themselves, when they work for the empowerment of others.
By: Eric Betts
Assistant Director, Curtis Coleman Center for Religious Studies and Ethics at Athens State University