Empower Thy Self

Managers have the legitimate authority by virtue of their position in the organization’s hierarchy to make decisions that ultimately involve the allocation and deployment of the organization’s resources.  The popular use in business organizations of the empowerment concept has to do with things like pushing decision-making down the hierarchy of the organization, structuring a flatter organization thus enabling management to push decision-making down the hierarchy. So in essence a portion of a manager’s decision-making responsibility is distributed to employees in an attempt to make them feel as though they are important participants in the work of the organization.  Seen in this light it is understandable why many managers believe that they empower their people.


From a very human perspective, empowerment is not taking on or being given another’s responsibilities—that’s delegation of authority—rather it is being able to assume one’s own responsibilities as an ever-developing human being.  It is acknowledging and acting in accordance with our “I-We” nature; and in so doing our very human responsibility is to continually develop our personhood (‘I’) and contribute to the development of the collective (‘We’).  In other words, in a very human sense, empowerment means having the courage to move beyond victimhood and/or subservience toward seizing the many opportunities to learn from the experiences life provides, thus actualizing (human) potential.   However if one views the organization’s employees as objects—skill sets, abilities, etc—then this view of empowerment will not resonate.


Seen with this understanding one can’t really empower another, as tradition would have it.  Clearly this is something that only the individual person can do for him/her self; it is not within the power of others to empower another—though many in positions of authority claim they do so.


So what must management/leaders do to facilitate the emergence of greatness in others? Relate to others as subjects (core-to-core) not as objects.  Cease being the mechanic of the machine driving for results, using accountability to force desired behavior and relying on positional authority.  Begin enabling potential by becoming a facilitator of learning and by conducting business differently.  Create an environment wherein people can find meaning and joy in work. But to do this the person with the authority must truly care to commit to quality and to developing his/her personhood as a way of influence.  To do this one must empower thy self!


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