The Art of Empowerment

As Baby Boomer business owners continue to race towards retirement, the Gen X’s and Millennials are being tasked to carry the mantle of business onward.   Whether it’s by sale, transition, or succession the torches of ownership are being passed at a record pace.  A by-product that has resulted from this mass exodus is an accelerated need for leadership development.    But what is leadership and how do you develop it?

Leadership is not wielding authority, it’s empowering people” – Becky Brodin


We often mistake leadership with “Driving a Team” vs. “Empowering a Team”.   There is a big difference. Though there are definitely situations where someone has to step up and make a decision, the reality is leaders often are allowing themselves to be pulled into time sucking activities they have no business being involved in.   There is a lack of empowerment and the business owner(s) or senior management are left doing the equivalent of entry-level tasks and to-do lists, missing ideal opportunities that encourage and foster leadership development.


What is Empowerment in Business?   A good definition is….

“A management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance.”

“Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.”


Building a culture of strong leaders in business does not happen without intentional effort from ownership.   Usually, when we discuss empowering employees and shifting responsibilities within the business, owners are willing to agree on the importance of this.  But agreeing on it doesn’t mean they’ll act on it.  When pressed, the road block for them is that they often simply don’t know where to start or they’re just reacting. In their mind, the fires are too hot and the simplest, quickest solution is to grab the water hose themselves.    Empowerment opportunities are missed.


A great starting point with empowerment, which is ultimately a key component in any Leadership Development, is to simply look at your To-Do List, Task List, or what we like to call a “What Matters Most List”.   They are often filled with activities and time suckers that others could easily be doing.  But your fear of letting go or the “It is quicker to just do it myself” mindset prevents you from empowering someone else – someone perfectly capable of doing that task, instead.

Ultimately the Art of Empowerment is much more than just shifting items off your plate.  But it is one of the easiest places to start. It is an excellent litmus test for employees to demonstrate their willingness to take on additional responsibility, demonstrate initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for their actions; all skills that make one a better leader.


The next time you are feeling overwhelmed with too many things on your plate and not enough hours in the day, think about the Art of Empowerment.  Could you be practicing it?  What can you entrust to someone else that you’re currently doing?   Think about not only how it could help free up time for you, but further develop and build confidence in your future leaders.   It sounds counter-intuitive, but the more you empower your employees the more it will ultimately empower you!


What are your thoughts on Empowerment?  Do you view it as a key part in developing your team?  Do you consciously and actively look for opportunities to practice this with your future leaders?  As always we value your thoughts in the space below.

Chris Steinlage, Kansas City Business Coach 

2 thoughts on “The Art of Empowerment”

  1. Edward Prince says:

    This is a good post.

    “Leadership is not wielding authority, it’s empowering people” – Becky Brodin

    The older I get, the less that I know. Frankly, I never knew that much to begin with.

    My observation is that leaders are not unwilling to empower people. People are not willing to be empowered. Or, people don’t have the capacity to be empowered.

    It seems that people offer one-sided criticism of leaders and business owners for their perceived lack of empowering people, never fathoming the possibility that people don’t want to, or can’t or are unwilling to be empowered.

    In point of fact, leaders want to empower people to do the things that the leader does not want to do.

    The key here is the definition of “leader”.

    Some people have a self-professed assertion that they are a leader. Some people are bestowed the characterization of “leader” by people who don’t know what a true leader is. Such are not “leaders”.

    A true leader readily empowers people as an inherent character trait, never consciously needing to act as to empower people but rather doing so with unconscious competence.

    1. C. Steinlage says:

      Thanks for your perspective. I completely agree there are those who simply do not want to be empowered. True leaders are the ones who are able to identify other leaders, (often seeing traits that person may not know they possess) which as Tom Peters says allow them to create more leaders.

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