Why & How True North Leaders Empower Others

Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. — John Maxwell

Healthy leaders, True North leaders — those committed to authenticity, integrity and excellence — are deeply focused and reliant on, and intentional about the power of empowering their teams. And when you add a Spirit-infused motive to empower, powerful consequences result.

Too heavy-handed with the power word?

Well, for the purposes of this blog, my answer is a resounding, NO!

Here’s why, according to leadership guru Simon Sinek:

Most people think leadership is about being in charge. Most people think leadership is about having all the answers and being the most intelligent person or the most qualified person in the room. The irony is that it is the complete opposite. Leadership is about empowering others to achieve things they did not think possible. Leadership is about pointing in the direction, articulating a vision of the world that does not yet exist. Then asking help from others to insure that vision happens.

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t want to be trusted more? Empowered to do more? Recognized for their contributions and great ideas?

So, if you are NOT empowering your followers, let’s generously imagine that you’ve never thought of it. Or, that you were not empowered on your way up the leadership ladder and thus…

Or, it may be because:

· You are a narcissist

· You’re always the smartest person in the room

· You have an EQ deficiency

· Your leadership communication skills are limited

· You don’t trust your people

· You’re a poser and can’t afford to be discovered as an imposter

OK, yes, sadly I’ve written about each of those symptoms of weak or even toxic leaders recently. Why? Because I find far too many leaders within and without the Faith falling into those traps.

Let’s turn this around. Why should you — if you’re not already — begin to empower your people?

Leadership studies have regularly demonstrated that when employees feel empowered at work, good things happen: stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and a real commitment to the organization. And a Gallup study found that when an organization focuses on the individual strengths of their employees, engagement increases from 9% to 73%!

So how do you get started? At the risk of losing readers at this point, instead, I hope to inspire you with a solid plan to begin empowering those who — let’s be honest — are those on whose successes you build your own. Your greatest assets. Your employees.

This works in any organizational setting. Churches. Universities. Or any team with leaders and followers.

Leaders empower others by caring.

Leaders empower others with honesty and transparency.

Leaders empower others by listening.

Leaders empower others by sacrificing their own needs.

Leaders empower others by creating meaning and meaningfully tasked teams.

Empowerment is not a novel concept. Some hip-Millennial fueled notion. Remember that

· Moses empowered tribal judges (Exodus 18)

· Jesus empowered His followers (Matthew 28 & Acts 2)

· Paul empowered Timothy (2 Timothy 1)

Here’s a Top Nine list of strategies you can use to empower the leaders and future leaders within your organization. Herein you will find both short-term and long-term ideas to create a cadre of empowered and motivated leaders who will — together — more effectively and expeditiously move your enterprise toward the vision you’ve set.

  1. Share your vision.

Sorry if you’ve heard this one before. I preach it a lot. Espousing a “shareable” vision is one the routine practices of exemplary leaders. Let’s break this down into chewable bites:

o The vision must be clearly enunciated

o It must be understandable

o It must include attainable goals with measurable markers and results

o It must be relevant and relatable

2. Encourage your team to contribute to that vision.

If you undervalue your team’s desire to speak into your vision, you most likely won’t have read this far — you probably don’t care to empower your people. If you’ve presented a strong vision with the (above) components, your future leaders will have ideas — even greater ideas than yours perhaps — to help advance the mission. So,

3. Respect their opinions and fully consider their suggestions.

One of the most empowering behaviors a leader can exhibit is TRUST. Respecting by authentically taking your employee’s ideas into consideration, builds a deep and powerful loyalty. And most invaluably, emotional, cognitive and spiritual buy-in.

4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Right. You’ve read this from me before. But there is no way to overstate the vital necessity and power of clear, effective and frequent communication in this process. As you communicate and LISTEN, you create a healthy environment that is open to feedback, critique (don’t read: criticism) and new ideas. These communication avenues must flow upward and downward in your organization to be truly empowering.

5. Reward effort. Oh, and successes.

Acknowledging effort provides early signs that the boss is both serious about the empowering rhetoric being used, but also that risk-taking and innovative efforts are important — even when they may not work as desired.

For many people, we learn by doing. If you foster an environment within which effort is rewarded and successes are on exhilarating public display, you’ll reap inventive and perhaps ground-breaking results.

6. Always use weak efforts or even failures as learning opportunities.

BUT, the above must be ensconced in a trusting environment you create. An atmosphere that does NOT over-correct. Is not punitive when overly-optimistic results don’t happen. Far more valuable in failure moments is to do what you do as a parent: create teaching moments. Recognize failures or near-misses as new ways to learn what doesn’t work. That always leads to finding new ways that do work.

7. Correct privately. Reward openly.

And when those teaching moments occur and require more substantial correction, do so quietly and privately. By privately I mean, in an atmosphere wherein your future leader is not publicly shamed and excoriated.

But when successes result, make appropriate and authentic celebration. The caveat here is: do not hyper-inflate quasi successes. There is little less authentic than false praise. Or worse, cooking the results to make them appear better than their reality.

8. Don’t hover. Release and trust.

We all know about Helicopter Parents. Don’t be the boss version of the hovering, criticizing, squelcher of independence and creativity. Failure on this point is the quickest road to derailing all your trust and empowering strategies. In other words, don’t micromanage.

9. Provide growth and educational opportunities.

These can be intra-company:

o Invitations to attend higher-level meetings to observe and learn.

o Provide additional projects or tasks outside the purview of your emergent leaders’ current responsibilities.

o Greenlight innovative ideas — allow exploration of new worlds within your organization.

Or, external:

o Does your industry encourage or provide Continuing Education credits for seminars or conferences? Give your teams access to exposure from industry leaders and innovators.

o Thanks to Covid, myriad new online learning resources were created. Provide release time for your people to explore new ideas and voices that may enhance their knowledge base.

o Bring industry thought-leaders and known experts in house. Create mini-conferences at your shop.

o Provide financial incentives for memberships within like-minded and creative organizations.

o Stimulus monies should be made available for subscriptions or resources that enhance learning.

o Then, invite your leaders who’ve attended conferences or who have purchased helpful resources to publicly present what they’ve learned to the team.

Think of the various ways I’ve suggested to help you empower your teams and future leaders. Now, imagine the benefits to you, the organization and your people.

The concept of giving away is ancient. Nowhere more evident to True North leaders than God the Father’s example of giving his Son for our eternal benefit.

And as demonstrated in John 3:16, God models for us the truth of valuing others. The belief that everyone possesses unique and eternal value. Ergo, the leader who cherishes and values those under their spheres of influence by empowering them to collectively achieve greater heights, in the end, cherishes the enterprise and him/herself.

Please allow me to reframe the words of Jesus (in Luke 6:38) to describe the reciprocal nature of empowering others:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Norm Mintle

Dr. Mintle holds an earned Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership. He has served in executive positions across a broad range of media organizations and as a dean in two universities. This and previous blogs now provide conversation fodder for a group of True North Leaders online. Join us at True North Leadership on Facebook.