John Maxwell said “A leader is great, not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others.”
What does that mean?
We’re so glad you asked.
Being held hostage by your people is a dynamic that explains leaders who do more to withhold knowledge and experience than to share it with others. When these leaders leave for new opportunities, the organization is left scrambling to recreate that knowledge or experience from scratch.
As we’ve discussed in the past, servant leadership is coaching style of leadership which emphasizes the need to develop an organization’s greatest resource – its people. A big part of coaching and servant leadership overall is delegation. And while some leaders might indicate that delegation is a prominent component in their leadership, we would challenge everyone to assess just how well they delegate.
Much of the research on delegation shows us that the practice is carried out with either the wrong intentions or with improper execution. A task or responsibility may simply be passed off with no real intent to grow or develop the employee. Additionally, the leader may assign a new responsibility, but then fail to adequately follow up or check in with the employee in order to gauge progress and address challenges. In both cases, the employee is left feeling frustrated by either a task that was pawned off on them or by the lack of support given with which to complete the task.
Delegation can be a great way to ensure an organization is raising up its next set of leaders in order to reduce the “hostage effect.” However, if not performed correctly, it could also exacerbate the effect through the risk of not only losing leaders, but high performers and high potential people as well.
Empowerment is a great leadership buzzword; but to be effective; it requires more than a simple transfer of power. It requires a leader to determine that the task or responsibility being given to the employee is a good match based on their skills and potential, and, subsequently, that the leader provides the necessary follow up so that the employee is given the proper encouragement and guidance to be successful.