Empowerment Requires Forceful Leadership

Striking the right balance is essential.


‘Empowerment’, especially when discussed by HR professionals, is a topic that can get out of hand with respect to just how independently employees can operate while maintaining some semblance of productivity for the organisation. What we will discuss here is that real empowerment can only occur when there is strong leadership at the top setting the overall direction and providing some ground rules.

Employees spark to the idea of ‘empowerment’ which appeals to the natural desire for freedom and latitude. Management gurus often describe empowerment as a natural and potent way to motivate people, gain versatility, and deal with complexity by distributing authority. This fits well with the general need for flexibility in serving customers and developing and executing fresh ideas.

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On the other hand, for an employee to feel really productive they must be able to affect decisions in their area of responsibility that are relevant and in sync with the organisation’s goals.

Establish Goals & Execution

The primary responsibility of a leader is to establish those goals and oversee implementation. There is no doubt somebody has to be totally responsible for the organisation’s success.

This responsibility sets the leader apart and confers on him or her the right and the duty to the following:

1. Establishing and Communicating a Vision and a Strategy

Without this, the organisation flounders and employees actually become quite disenchanted because there is never a feeling of genuine accomplishment as no one really knows what the goals are.

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2. Motivating People

It’s a requirement of the leader that they create the excitement about the impact which will be achieved by meeting the goals.

This is done best when the employees have been involved in providing input in setting the overall direction while not necessarily having made the final decision as to what that direction is.

3. Developing the Organisation

This means reorganising based on the overall goals so that things can be achieved efficiently and effectively. It also means getting the right people in the right jobs and providing a culture that properly rewards solid performance.

When the leader has provided these three things, employees can be productively ‘empowered’ to fine-tune and execute plans that will lead to the achievement of the organisation’s goals.