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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

How to Become an Empowering Leader

What’s the best way to drive efficiency on your team, motivate others, and achieve great things?

Empowering your people.

Becoming an empowering leader doesn’t happen overnight. And it certainly doesn’t happen by doing what many of us leaders have done in the past: micromanaging.

As the world is changing and we are leading a different generation, our leadership style must change, too.

Many leaders are applying old methods to new problems and it simply isn’t working.

The rising generation of millennials are creative, open, more flexible, and have very different priorities. When managing a team of millennials, you may find that it is less about identifying tasks and more about removing roadblocks in the way of completing those tasks.

When you can adapt to a new way of leading, one that is empowering over demanding, you will see the positive results you want.

The more we can let go and trust as leaders, the more motivation, engagement, and dedication we are going to see from our employees.

Leading with empowerment ultimately allows you to relax knowing that the work is getting done and opens the opportunity for more innovation, growth, and success.

Here are three ways you can become an empowering leader.

1. Provide support to your teams

Giving support sounds like a no-brainer, yet sometimes as leaders, we forget to do it. We may be running around creating reports, lost in building the business, or simply just have too much going on to remember who needs what.

This is where we can step up. If you want your business and team to run smoothly while you’re out kicking ass and taking names, then you have to do something counterintuitive: stop, slow down, and find the time to make sure your people have what they need.

When you take a moment, you can ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does each team have the resources they need to succeed at the task or project I’ve given them?

  2. Are the other rising leaders being given enough leadership training, coaching, and mentorship?

  3. What are some events I can put on my calendar to get to know my team more?

  4. Have I stopped to listen to my teams’ goals, dreams, and aspirations?

  5. Are there any holes I can see in the project or task I’ve given my team?

  6. Is there any way I can bridge the gap before they hit a hole or roadblock?

  7. Are there any processes or steps I can implement to help them get there faster?

  8. Does my team need more authority or responsibility?

These questions will help you to clearly see where you need to focus your time, energy, and efforts. When you take the time to support your team, provide tools and resources, and work through challenges together, you’re setting yourself up to be able to walk away with more confidence.

You’ll be able to rest easier knowing that your team is prepared and will be able to accomplish their mission. Then, you can go off and keep being the business and leadership warrior that you are.

2. Trust in your team

A lot of being an empowering leader really comes down to trust. If you don’t trust your team, you’re probably not going to give them the authority and responsibility in order to get done what needs to get done.

LinkedIn defines “empowerment leadership” as, “a trust driven leadership style. It’s about empowering other people (to accomplish a goal) as a result of your presence, and about making sure that the impact of your leadership continues into your absence.”

LinkedIn also says, “The path to empowerment leadership begins with trust. Trust, one of the most essential forms of capital a leader has, is the foundation of empowerment leadership.”

Building trust with your team doesn’t come easy to every leader. For some of you, it can be a stretch in your personality or leadership style to let go of control. But when it comes to empowering your team, trust is a foundational component.

“If you delegate to those who work for you the authority to act on your behalf in key and well defined situations, confident that they know your vision and your intent, then you are going to stay on track. And when you empower your team you are building the future leaders of your company – which is essential to long term continuous success.”

When you develop a strong foundation built on trust in your team and their trust in you, it will be hard to slow down success and it will be easy to leave your team on their own to do their thing.

When trust is low, negative behaviors like unhealthy competition, isolation, and conflict tend to arise and this can be disruptive to the team and slow down efficiency. When you have a trusting team, they instead, are more likely to exhibit behaviors like innovation, openness, and collaboration.

Maybe as a new leader coming in, you don’t feel as comfortable trusting your team. So set up buffers. Say, “Hey I need this by a certain time.” Once you see that that’s working, start to expand those buffers wider and wider. Eventually, you will be able to trust your team to not only meet deadlines but accomplish other important tasks and feel confident that they will be delivered by the agreed-upon time and required specifications.

It’s the same as establishing what I call the right and left lateral limits. The more you learn how to build trust with your team, the more you can start to widen your boundaries with your team and feel comfortable that they will own what they are given.

If you don’t feel comfortable trusting your team yet, start small. But you have to start somewhere. You have to start building trust with your team over time because that trust is what empowerment is. It is letting your team be autonomous.

I promise, when you finally take your hands off the wheel, it will be worth it.

3. Offer mentorship and networking opportunities

And lastly, you can become an empowering leader through providing mentorship to your team.

Especially as a woman in STEM, I know it can be hard to find a mentor. When mentorship programs are factored into business models and processes, it is much easier for employees to level up their career.

There are so many benefits to providing your team with mentors. Creating connections in the workplace is one of the best ways to help the individuals on your team grow and succeed. When you provide your team the opportunity to be mentored or offer them ways to connect with a network of people who are willing and ready to be their allies, you’ll increase their confidence and become a leader they respect.

Mentorship has changed my life and the direction of my career drastically. It has given me the ability to rise in the ranks faster than I could without someone pulling me up. I also talk about the importance of having many mentors. That way, you have multiple outside perspectives to turn to when you are going through a challenge.

Mentorship in the workplace helps to:

  1. Promote connection and leadership

  2. Provide guidance and give insight

  3. Motivate and engage your employees

  4. Give the necessary opportunities for advancement

When you have a great and well-established mentorship program, it is something that your entire team can get excited about!

Become an empowering leader

Empowered leadership oftentimes is born when you find your authentic leadership style.

When you are comfortable in who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, and how you show up as a leader, you will be more comfortable inspiring and encouraging others to do the same. And an organization that feels strong in their skills, gifts, and talents will become unstoppable.

Do your best to support your people, build trust and practice letting go, and provide opportunities where they can succeed, grow, and thrive.

These three things, when applied in the workplace, can create massive momentum and growth in your business or organization.

When your team is aligned in values and clear on the mission, you, as a leader, just have to steer the sails towards success.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

So, leaders, I encourage you to encourage your people and be a leader they want to follow.

As an authentic leadership and development speaker, I can help to motivate and inspire you and your teams to become more empowered. If you’d like to learn more, visit my website or book me to speak at your next event.


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