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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

How to Lead with Empowerment


Are you finding it hard to get the results you want with your team?


It may be because you are not empowering them.


Most of us are not in offices anymore and the nine-to-five work demand just doesn’t hold up with the new millennial workforce. People are now working independently and for many leaders, that can be hard to navigate.


Many times, any sort of big change in the business landscape will invite leaders to become helicopter parents because they want to know what’s going on, when it’s happening, and when it will get done.


This, I’ve learned, does not work. Especially in times of uncertainty.


When it comes to managing your team, it’s important to understand that while management is necessary, empowerment is more effective.


Empowerment all goes back to trust and letting go of control.


When you trust in your team and they trust in you to lead them, together, you’re able to achieve great things. EPIC things!


The world is changing and our leadership style needs to change with it. Here are three reasons why empowerment is the new management.


What is empowerment?


Empowered leadership is giving your team autonomy. If your team is empowered, they know what they need to do, when they need to do it, and feel confident in how they are going to get it done… and you don’t have to tell them.


I have been in leadership roles where I have not been empowered by my boss. And it makes life a whole lot more difficult to actually run a team if you haven’t been empowered to do it. It’s a really hard situation to be in when you have all the responsibility and none of the authority.


When it comes to your team, you have to give your people the responsibility and the authority. If you tell someone to complete a task or a project and they know they have to get it done, but they don’t have the authority to go out and get the resources and people they need, then they are going to fall flat and there’s a good chance that they are going to fail.


Research has regularly demonstrated that when employees feel empowered at work, it is associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization.”

When you loosen your grip a little bit and cut your team some slack, you can instead focus on building trust. When you do this, you’ll see that they will own their projects with integrity. As a leader, if you are trying to hold on to the project while they are working on it, then there’s no buy-in from them and you’ll both likely get frustrated and hit roadblocks.


You want to do what you can to allow your people to put some skin in the game. If they think you’re going to take the project back the moment they mess up, you aren’t going to get good results.


If you really empower your team, then they naturally want to do the best job they can because it’s their project. When you allow your team to do the best job they can with the resources they have, you’ll see how ready your team is to rise and meet the challenge.


Leading the New Rising Leaders


Millennials are becoming the new workforce and as leaders, we have to adapt and learn how to work with millenials if we want our business to stay alive and relevant.

Adapting to (and attracting) the rising millennial leaders means first understanding what they prioritize and how they are best motivated, inspired, and encouraged.


It’s no secret that millennials prioritize freedom and flexibility. But what does that look like in terms of management?


It looks like empowerment.


Millennials want to be given autonomy and trust. They want to feel empowered to be able to do a job to the best of their ability without being constantly checked in on, micromanaged, or doubted.


It means that they want to be trusted enough to work when they want and how they want. To millennials, “end of day” might just mean midnight instead of five o’clock and maybe their typical work hours are from six o’clock at night to two o’clock in the morning.


For some leaders, this may seem radical. And that’s why empowered leadership is so important. In order to meet the millennial demands, you have to be able to trust them.


Trust starts with getting to know your team. Once you feel comfortable with each member of your team, who they are, what they aspire to be, and how they communicate and work best, you can start to let go of control a little bit.

As teams are working whenever and wherever now, they have to know what they need to do and have all the resources they need to be able to own their project and execute well on their own.


When you give them this, all of a sudden you may see excitement around the project. Maybe they say, “yes! I am going to kill it on this project!” because they are clearly given autonomy, direction, and trust to do so.


When every member of your team has what they need and are able to work on their project with little to no interference, that’s when you know you’re really leading in a way that’s working. It then becomes your job to just bring everyone together once in a while and make sure people aren’t flying off into left field – but that’s it!


Management vs. Empowerment vs. Micromanagement


Nobody wants to be micromanaged! That’s why people are leaving their jobs in mass amounts!


The old way of leading (manage and then manage harder if you want things done) just isn’t what the new generation of workers respond well to. While management is necessary, it is not the complete picture. Empowerment is needed to inspire, motivate, engage, and retain your teams.


It may take a little while for you to leave behind the outdated models of management, find your authentic leadership style and begin empowering your team, but when you find that sweet spot, you’ll know.


Your teams will function with ease, you’ll have built a solid foundation of trust, and you’ll notice efficiency increase.


McKinsey & Company describes the two ends of the spectrum you do not want to find yourself on:

“Helicopter bosses tend to manage by exception, maintaining a distance and being mostly hands-off until an employee ‘fails’ or creates cause for concern. They take over to get things back on track, bark out orders, exert pressure and control, and once things are stable, go back to being hands-off.”

In contrast,

“Micromanagers seek to stave off failure by being highly involved and controlling most or all of the time. While each might have its place, for instance, in times of crisis when the employee lacks either the will or the skill to adequately do what is required, neither approach is very empowering.”

If you are leading in these ways, it’s time you take a moment to self-reflect and decide if this is how you want to lead your people.


For me, it matters that my people are happy and I know from personal experience that micromanagement and being too controlling are the quickest ways to cause friction among teams and create unhappy employees.


Instead, I strive to get to the place where as a leader, I can go into the office (or show up online) and just check in and say, “Hey everyone, how is it going and what do you need?”


This level of relaxation with my teams comes after we’ve built trust and executed projects efficiently and successfully. The more wins we have, the longer I extend the slack. Once I’ve come in, addressed any problems or challenges and provided the necessary resources to get through them, I can go back to running the business.


If I can do it, you can too!


Empowering your people gets the results you want


Many leaders think that the way to be a better leader is through managing, or worse, micromanaging their team and that is how they will get the results they want.


That may have worked in the past, but the world is changing and the people we are now leading have changed. Millennials make up a majority of the workforce and that means there is a different set of values and priorities we, as leaders, must understand if we are to lead our team on to do great things.


The true way to genuine leadership is empowering your people.


And empowerment starts with trust. And trust is the act of giving responsibility and authority.


If your entire team is absolutely empowered, you as the boss don't even need to show up because ideally, your team already knows what they need to do and they don’t need you hanging around to watch them do it.


When your people are happy, they have buy-in, and they feel independent and autonomous, they become motivated, loyal, and dedicated employees committed to getting things done.


If you would like to learn more about how you can become an empowering leader and create empowered teams, book me to speak at your next event! As a keynote speaker on leadership, I can help to inspire you and your team to achieve great things.

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