Conventional wisdom holds that managers should empower their people. That people who have the freedom to make decisions and act on their initiative are more fulfilled in their work and perform at a higher level. It makes good sense.
But there is a dark side to empowerment. It provides a ready-made excuse for managers who don’t believe their job actually involves managing. Those who want to be a leader without the responsibilities of leadership.
Empowerment on its own is no panacea. It is just one element – yes, a very important one – in an environment designed for performance and results. Focusing on empowerment yet ignoring the other elements can be disastrous. For example, if you provide empowerment without direction, it leads to chaos. Empowerment without resources leads to frustration. Empowerment without knowledge leads to poor decisions. Empowerment without skills leads to well-intended failures. If all you do is empower your people, then you’re likely setting them up to fail.
Empowered people flourish when they have a sense of purpose, when they understand the goals and what is expected of them in pursuit of those goals. When they have the knowledge to make good decisions and the skills and resources to effectively act on them. When they are recognized for taking action and encouraged to learn and grow.
Empowered people flourish when managers realize their role is to create an environment in which their people will be fulfilled and perform at a high level. When they don’t use ’empowerment’ as a poor excuse for abandonment.