Craig discusses how important empowerment is to improving leadership.
As a leader, I believe one of the most powerful things you can do is empower your people. I know this isn’t a groundbreaking concept, but I believe it’s incredibly important. Empowerment not only has benefits for your people, customers and organisation, but also for engagement, development of you and your team, the company culture, results, etc… the list goes on.
Your team of people are the experts! They know what they’re doing. As a leader, it’s best for you to move out of the way and trust them. By giving them encouragement, belief, development, space and the right environment, they’re likely to flourish and be the best they can be.
I’ve experienced the reverse of this, with one leader I worked for having a total command and control approach to leadership. Not only was I told the outcomes that needed to be achieved, but also exactly how it needed to be done, when by and even what pen to use! This sucked the innovation, creativity and motivation out of me. This micro-management meant I was no longer engaged with the work I was creating and it had a negative impact on me and the results I delivered (and likely impacted my colleagues at the time too). This style of leadership causes teams to stagnate and crumble. Innovation is lacking, motivation dwindles and a growth mindset disappears.
One leadership style I find powerful as a leader is the coaching style. This helps others to find their own answers. Asking questions and trusting your team on a daily basis, and then taking a step back, creates the space for individuals to grow, gain confidence, increase their competence and think for themselves. In turn, this allows them to take a leadership approach themselves. It’s great to have another person letting me know what they’re going to do/have done, as opposed to the individual asking me, ‘What should I do?’ or ‘How do you want me to do it?’. Where knowledge, skills or behavioural gaps exist, help them to identify ways to fill the gaps, and then encourage them to do so!
This doesn’t just have to apply if you have a team. For me, it’s a leadership style I choose to adopt every day, with as many people as I can, inside and outside of work… when it’s appropriate. I may chat it through with them, or occasionally identify training needs, but essentially I trust them to do what they think is best.
This coaching leadership style is made more powerful by building a culture of feedback. At Rambutan, our culture is built on trust, making all our feedback candid. A trusting culture is also important to empower individuals to step up and take control. This feedback culture allows mistakes to be chatted through and spoken about, to increase learning and stop them from happening again. Our Rambutan feedback culture, built around honest, open conversations, means it’s okay to give an individual feedback in a way that cares passionately, but challenges directly.
If, as a leader, you want true empowerment with people stepping up, you need to trust them and be aware that they’ll make mistakes. Help people understand what they’re doing amazingly well, and also what needs to be different. This way you’re developing people to step up and be leaders themselves. Leaders aren’t defined by a badge or a job title.
A fabulous leadership book all about this is ‘Turn the ship around!’ by David Marquet, which I recommend to anyone who wants to know more about leading through empowerment and taking a coaching approach, rather than a command and control one.
What leadership style fits you and your people the best?