Simon Sinek in his book on leadership, Start with Why, wrote the following:
There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.
I recall working for a leader who led. He was enjoyable to be around. I followed him not for him but for myself. I was inspired to work hard, take the initiative and be creative with my responsibilities.
In the city where I live, as in many cities, recycling is a routine way of handling the millions of tons of trash produced daily in the United States.
Recently the leader of our Celebrate Recovery said, “God is in the recycling business; He recycles our pain.”
That statement is not new or original with this leader. It has been used in lessons for Celebrate Recovery and other recovery programs for years.
But as I heard the statement this time, I saw parallels between the process I go through in order for the city to recycle my garbage and how God recycles our pain.
Last week I talked about why some leaders may hesitate to empower their followers. This week, as promised, we will look at how leaders can empower their followers.
I want to begin by defining empowerment so we can clearly establish what a leader is trying to achieve when intentionally empowering followers.
To empower others is a good thing as long as you don’t feel threatened by that empowerment. And no place is that more true than in the role of being a leader. The word “empower” is threatening to many leaders because they often feel empowering those they lead could lead to their own position being threatened.
Successful leaders have learned that, without the empowerment of those they lead to both get the job done and to develop and grow, they will not succeed as leaders. If empowerment is so vital to success, why do so many leaders resist it?
Leadership is first about those you lead and secondly about the results you achieve. So, are you focused on the task to be accomplished or the people under your leadership who accomplish the task? Many successful leaders will tell you that it was only when they became people-focused that they were able to achieve the success they did.
Some leaders hold to a popular idea which says, “When you show up for work, leave your personal problems at the door.” If this was possible you would not have embezzlements, affairs, fights, drugs and alcohol abuse in the workplace. Many leaders who hold that point of view do not want to know about the personal struggles of those they lead. Very often these same leaders are seen as uncaring and demanding.
It is unrealistic to expect the employee whose child is home sick, or who found out over the weekend that their spouse is having an affair with their best friend, to show up to work and check their personal problems at the door. Yet too many leaders expect those they lead to respond like this.