When Leaders Don’t Grasp the Empowerment Being Offered

Leadership

Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power. – Seth Berkley

There are some who will never take on the responsibility of their own empowerment. I was asked once in an interview, “What’s the difference between leadership and management?” There is a difference. To answer that question for most organizations, it’s important to first identify a few key characteristics of a leader:

  1. Leaders are geared toward the purpose of the organization. A leader knows how to process a personal and professional purpose and align it with the company’s purpose.
  2. Leaders take ownership of the vision for the future. Ownership is taken through a leader’s intention, commitment, and actions to implement the organization’s future.
  3. Leaders will take on responsibility and collaborate. They will work with other leaders to fix the problems of the organization, even if they’re outside of their department.

The Management Box Hinders Leadership

 Managers are those who say, “Tell me what I’m supposed to do, and I’ll go take care of it. I’m happy doing that.” They are driven by their task list. You have to understand that not everyone is going to be a leader, and that a lot of people are very comfortable just doing their job as a manager. Some people want to stay in that management box. It doesn’t matter how hard you try or how many hours you invest in them, that’s where they’re the happiest. You can try and give them empowerment outside of their job description, and they won’t latch onto it. And that’s okay. They’re simply not interested; it’s not what they want to do.

Most of these managers will latch on to the servant leadership concept to a certain extent. For example, if we want the managers to invest 20 percent of their time in their employees, they will latch on to that. But when you get them into a room to talk about the vision and purpose of the company and why they do what they do, they will come back and say, “What you’re talking about is great. But once you decide that, tell me what you want me to do to support it.” They’re really task-driven people, and they like other people to take care of the overall vision and challenges of the organization.

Leaders Grasp Empowerment

Leaders will spend time explaining the mission and purpose to their people, so they understand the higher purpose of what they do. Managers are not going to talk to their people about making a difference, because that’s not their gift. They don’t feel comfortable doing that. When you compare the performance of the departments led by a leader vs. one led by a manager, you can see that the first group outperforms the second in the long run. That’s just something we have to understand. Both groups get the results they need, but the first group performs at a higher level or it costs less to get the results.

Sometimes managers will tell us, “I’m not being empowered.” But often when we give them that empowerment, they’ll come back and say, “I don’t want to make this decision.” What we’ve discovered is, they don’t really want to be empowered, because they don’t want to take the responsibility given them; they want to pass it on to someone else, or in some cases pass it back to you.

In all, managers tend to confine their growth for comfort and work with less commitment toward a greater purpose. On the other hand, leaders grasp empowerment, know their “why” and embrace accountability because it all serves as a means to accomplish the organization’s goals, mission, and vision.

How about you? Are you a task-driven manager or a purpose-driven leader? If you want to shift from one to the other, be mindful of your intention as you lead others and let your actions reciprocate.

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