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Demonstrate Leadership Through Empowerment

Empowerment is another key trait of great leaders.  True leaders make their associates feel emboldened and powerful, not diminished and powerless.   It is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Habit 4 is “Think Win/Win”.   The win/win paradigm shifts the emphasis from the traditional authoritarian supervision (i.e. top-down) model to a cooperative results oriented model.   Creating Win/Win Agreements is an effective way to manage expectations between people involved in an interdependent activity.    Empowerment is also one of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.   Law #12 is the Law of Empowerment.  “Leading well is not about enriching yourself – it’s about empowering others.”

Why is empowerment such a powerful trait for a leader?  The answer to this lies in modern motivation theories.  Employees are no longer motivated by the carrot or the stick (i.e. extrinsic motivators).   They are motivated by intrinsic factors.   According to Daniel Pink in his best-selling book, Drive, the three basic intrinsic motivators are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.   People strive for autonomy to some degree – either over what they do, when they do it, whom they do it with, or how they do it.   Companies that offer autonomy are outperforming their peers.  Goals that are both freely chosen and enhance personal growth and development lead to greater enjoyment, longer persistence and better performance.  These goals satisfy the drive for autonomy as well as mastery.

Developing the empowerment muscle may be more difficult than it seems on the surface.   It first requires a change from a “competitive mentality” to an “abundance mentality”.   An abundance mentality is based upon the belief that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.  The competitive mentality is fostered by many of our systems and our institutions when they reward the best performances with awards, trophies, scholarships, bonuses, etc.   Growing up in this environment easily leads to the development of the competitive mentality – the “us or them” mentality, the “win/loose” mentality.   Moving away from this mentality begins with the development of a strong sense of self-worth.   People with good self-esteem do not fear loosing what they have when others move ahead.   They recognize that promoting others benefits the whole.  The organization grows, improves and increases profitability only with leaders who demonstrate the abundance mentality.

A leadership coach can help you strengthen the empowerment muscle, incorporate it into goal setting and create Win/Win Agreements.  To get started today, call me for a free consultation.


Covey, Stephen R. (2003).  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. N.Y., N.Y., Free Press.

Maxwell, John C. (2007).  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Pink, Daniel H. (2009).  Drive.  N.Y., N.Y., Riverhead Books.



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