How do we know if we truly empower our staff or simply pay lip service to the concept. None of us as leaders would want to believe that we disempower staff, but it is often exactly what we do. Because leaders are intent on what they are doing they often do not realize that their actions can be disempowering to those around them. If you lead others, think through these behaviors which can disempower and annoy/irritate those who work for us.
We expect our staff to be flexible with us but we are not flexible with them.
We frequently make last minute changes without explanation that have a ripple impact down the line. An example would be pastors who make changes to the service on Friday after everything has been planned and expect that folks will simply comply even though it means a whole team of people must then respond at a most inconvenient time.
We feel free to be harsh or critical because we can with people who cannot push back. Leaders have an unfair advantage in venting on their staff as they do not have the freedom to vent back. Just because we have the positional authority does not mean we can be careless with our words, emotions or attitudes. In fact, it is precisely because we have authority that our standard must be higher.
We delegate responsibility without full authority. This happens when we give someone the responsibility to solve a problem but we still feel free to change the solution at the last minute. If we feel that we have that freedom we should solve the problem ourselves rather than giving someone else responsibility and then ripping the rug from under their feet.
We tell people what to do rather than dialogue and ask for their input. This feels very much like a parent communicating with a child rather than a colleague talking to another colleague. Every time we choose to tell or demand without conversation we lose valuable relational points.
We make assumptions about motives or actions without first ascertaining the facts. Facts matter a lot. If I hear something and say something without first getting the actual facts which includes talking to those involved I will inevitably make unfair statements that hurt. It is careless and hurtful on our part.
We don't prepare for and lead meetings well. When this happens we communicate to staff who must be at the meeting, "you were not important enough to me to prepare for you." Waste your staff's time in meetings and you create cynicism and irritation. Many leaders are guilty of this one.
We don't spend quality time with our staff. If we ignore our staff, do not engage with them beyond a surface level, they pick up on this quickly. They know what it means: "We are not important to you." "You do not value or trust us." It is a dangerous move because when push comes to shove, staff will only go to the wall for leaders with whom they have a healthy relationship.
We shut down discussion on issues we are uncomfortable with. This communicates to staff that they are not free to interact with us except on those issues we are willing to talk about. If this becomes a pattern it effectively keeps staff from telling us what they think, as if that means that all is OK. It is not. Those same staff will talk to one another and to others if they cannot talk to the leader leading to dysfunctional relationships that the leader is responsible for creating.
We are passive leaders. How does a passive leader disempower staff? By not creating a vision, cohesive mission and the missional clarity that is at the core of leading a team. Passive leadership is one of the most disempowering of all leadership actions. Even worse than bad leadership. Why would I want to invest myself in an organization that is going nowhere? Passive leaders squander the gifts of their staff and should not be in leadership.
(Posted from Santiago, Chile)