Build a team so strong that no-one can point out the leader (Anon)

The mark of true leadership lies in the efficacy, confidence and performance of the leader’s team. Too many leaders rely on personal charisma, authority (even manipulation) and other coercion techniques to get the job done, disempowering team members as a result. Trust is subsequently eroded and employees have to exist, somewhat painfully, within the ensuing toxic environment. Here, work becomes a chore and people start exploring other job opportunities.

“Empowerment means giving people authority to make decisions based on what they feel is right, have control over their work, take risks and learn from mistakes and promote change” (Evans and Lindsay, best known for Management and Control of Quality). Empowerment is the process of enabling or authorising individuals in a team to think, behave, take action and control work and decision-making in autonomous ways. The leader here assumes that team members are not chess pieces, but chess players, and subsequently have skills and strengths that can be utilised towards achieving team success. The leader should thus facilitate and enable the use of giftedness and talent rather than telling people what to do. Teams need to be coached, not bossed.

Empowerment of the team, for the leader, thus involves:

  1. Humility – this is not weakness, but rather the recognition that the ideas of others are often better than your own. Needed changes and improvements are best implemented when team members propose and take responsibility for quality, innovation and creativity.
  2. Sharing information appropriately – adequate doses of relevant information need to be administered regularly. Keeping the team in the dark amounts to negligence or selfishness, if deliberate. People crave information to facilitate better thinking processes.
  3. Clarity of the vision – the “big picture” for the company (why we exist and what we are trying to achieve) is essential for team members to understand their purpose and the part that they need to play. A lack of vision frustrates and distracts employees.
  4. Feedback – constructive feedback (delivered on both employee and leader performance) provides the opportunity for growth and improvement. The leader should always act on any feedback received – this demonstrates to employees that they truly have a voice. Facilitating open and honest feedback conversations engenders trust.
  5. Recognition, rewards and encouragement – team members repeat that which is recognised and rewarded. Empowerment requires team members to take risks – the leaders who encourage this behaviour get more of it in the future.
  6. Giving authority – when teams have authority to make decisions, they feel empowered. When leaders have ensured that team members are skilled enough to make decisions, authority can be granted. The more control people have over their work and how it is done, the higher their sense of empowerment.
  7. Opportunities for professional growth – professional growth and empowerment are highly interconnected. All companies should invest in learning and development. Sharpening the critical thinking abilities of team members ensures that they are ready for any new opportunities. Leaders should coach employees – this boosts morale and provides a concrete sense of development direction.

Great leaders build strong teams. Team members need to feel empowered and actually have the authority to make decisions about how they go about their work. Leaders need to build critical thinking and the skills base to make this a possibility.

Free To Grow offers the workshop “Engaging Leadership” to upskill leaders to empower their respective teams – for more information, contact me on

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