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Empowerment can’t be taken away

Nov 15, 2021

by Aubrey Patterson


A leader who doesn't empower people to dig into issues or take the time to build commitment almost always creates a culture of parking lot conversations and hallways filled with whispered negativity.

Power illuminates strengths and weaknesses in areas that can be improved, like skills and tasks. And it also illuminates those things ingrained in leaders that are very likely to never change like empathy, integrity, and engagement.

With great power comes great responsibility. (Voltaire)

It can be difficult to identify those who have the qualities necessary to both pursue and nurture an exceptional culture.

The founders of Western Philosophy (Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato) subscribed to a belief wherein the few wisest should be permitted to rule. One problem is, of course, gaining agreement on who is the wisest.

But even if we could choose the wisest leaders, what if the person with power lacks integrity or is simply an unkind or apathetic person?

Herein lies the problem: how do we select those who will use their power for good and want to nourish an incredible culture?

One strategy is to focus the selection and evaluation of leaders upon their desire and ability to build leadership in others. We can simply ask in an interview or a job review, "Could you tell us of three people you helped grow as leaders and what you intentionally did to support their growth?"

Education requires people with power who are driven to empower.

Unlike power, empowerment can’t be taken away.

Empowerment illuminates much more than power ever can and is easily measured in the smiles observed in parking lots and hallways.

We need to resist our natural inclinations to keep a tight grip on our power. In the long term, enlarging others will only make us larger leaders.


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