Empowerment and its role in leadership

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- If the core values are the foundation that our military is built on, then leadership is the columns that support and raise us to limitless heights. An important part of effective leadership is empowerment.
Empowerment means several things. It means having the ability to make decisions about situations, as they arise, and acting on those decisions. It is the responsibility to acknowledge whether those decisions were right or wrong and the ability to learn and gain insight from those events. Enduring successes and failures allows us to gain a level of experience and understanding that cannot be taught. Empowerment is a process. As an individual goes through the process, they will naturally begin assuming more responsibility and start taking ownership of their jobs as opposed to just going through the motions. Another important point is that empowerment leads to more empowerment. The person that has been empowered will, over time, take on increasing levels of responsibility as their experience grows. This not only allows them to do more for their organization, but allows their superiors to trust them with more important duties.

There is a difference between assigning someone a job and empowering them for a job. The difference is that if you tell someone what to do and exactly how to do it, they will do their job without much thought or concern. It is just a task that they have to perform to get the job done. On the other hand, if you tell them to do a job and leave it up to them to decide how to accomplish the job, this changes their whole perspective of the task. Now the person has to decide how to perform the job. They will have to weigh various options and figure out the best way to get the job done. This not only gets the individual involved with all aspects of the job, but makes them want to do the job well so that they can feel proud of their accomplishment.

As a leader, being empowered makes all the difference in the world. It is a freeing experience that allows you to make your own decisions and implement your own ideas. It makes you care about your job on a personal level in a way that nothing else can. You feel more important and that your superiors have confidence in your abilities to get the job done. It is also important to remember that as a leader, it is your responsibility to empower your subordinates, as well.

Finally, the lack of empowerment can severely hinder your effectiveness as a leader. Instead of allowing a leader to make decisions and deal with situations as they arise, you have tied their hands. If you are not empowered to do your job then that sense of pride and ownership that is so very important, is gone. If each issue has to be taken above your head in order to be resolved, the results are slowed productivity, lower moral, and a sense of worthlessness.