Why Intelligent Leadership Is About Empowering Your Team
Intelligent leaders empower their reports to trigger psychological ownership in them. This ownership extends to one’s work, the goals of the team, those of the organization, and, most importantly, to responsibility.
Many of the benefits of empowerment stem from psychological ownership. An employee who exercises such ownership will:
- Feel an obligation to “get things done”
- Be more inclined to communicate and to provide and receive feedback
- Find work more rewarding
- Be more willing to give an extra effort
- Feel more appreciated
- Be more open to new ideas and more willing to develop his/her skills
- Be more engaged
The productivity of an empowered team is vastly superior to that of an entirely subordinate team or one that merely executes delegated tasks.
Empowered employees own their work and take responsibility for their results.
The Difference between Delegation and Empowerment
Although it may be the first step of empowerment, delegation merely tells an employee what to do and maybe how to accomplish a task. It does not allow independent decision-making.
True empowerment means trusting someone to make decisions in line with organizational goals and culture.
Trust and responsibility are the pillars upon which empowerment, psychological ownership, and self-efficacy rest.
How do Intelligent Leaders Empower Their Team Members?
The first step is to infuse a foundation of trust and responsibility in the attitudes of teams and individuals. With these basic principles lacking, leaders will find it difficult to trust their reports with important decisions and reports will resist empowerment and psychological ownership.
The second step is to transcend delegation. Delegation may be a good starting point, but from the perspective of empowerment, that is all it can ever be unless it is the delegation of authority.
In addition to the basics, leaders can take several other steps to empower.
- Making the team/individual part of the decision-making process is key to empowerment. Leaders should be open to the ideas of their employees, even if some of these ideas turn out to be useless. Being a good listener is, therefore, an essential leadership skill from the perspective of empowerment.
- Intelligent leadership stresses the importance of two-way feedback. Leaders should provide constructive and positive feedback where warranted.
- Empowerment is the equivalent of on-the-job leadership training in some sense. When leaders grant their reports authority over projects, they give them the chance to sharpen their leadership skills.
- Pushing team members to improve while mentoring them is the best leadership training one can provide. Leaders should not refrain from coaching their reports to success.
- Open communication is essential for developing trust and empowering employees. Intelligent leadership is about creating an environment where all those involved can freely air their concerns and contribute their ideas.
Brainstorming is often the source of great ideas.
- Demonstrating trust is the equivalent of letting go of the reins. The intelligent leader grants team members enough authority to allow them to complete projects on their own.
- An empowering leader sets clear expectations for team members. Thus, employees slowly awakening to self-efficacy know what they have to accomplish to earn recognition.
- Making sure employees have all the resources they need to complete their projects is also a basic prerequisite of empowerment.
Beyond learning the theories behind employee empowerment, leaders should focus on incorporating the practice into the organizational culture. A culture of empowerment improves productivity in an amazing number of ways.
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