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  • Writer's pictureCarl Davies

Give away your power

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

John C Maxwell says one of the irrefutable laws of leadership is linked to "giving away your power". I wonder how many readers have observed leaders who do the exact opposite?

In any position of leadership, we need some level of control. However, it's how we go about maintaining control that defines us as leaders. By empowering staff, we help build trust and encourage autonomy. By doing this we enable staff to lead their direct line reports and we encourage a trickle down effect of servant leadership.

Whenever I join a new team, I first try to assess how empowered the members of the team are. How accountable and responsible they are. It's not uncommon to see people doing the work that they have been 'told' to do. It often results in service centring around one individual, usually a manager, who knows how to keep the system 'surviving' and builds this around a command and control style of leadership. That manager becomes the single-point of failure and in doing so maintains a very subtle form of dependency, and therefore control.

In order to 'thrive', leaders should be prepared to let go of direct control and release this form of dependency. Giving away power creates somewhat of a paradox. It makes the leader 'vulnerable' as the service is no longer dependent on them. However, as John C Maxwell again points out, it also makes them indispensable. By empowering and maximising the abilities of the team, by encouraging autonomy, accountability and proactiveness, a leader can compound individual effectiveness over multiple levels.

An individual's ability to deliver as a leader is fundamentally linked to how well they can expand their zone of trust and empowerment and still maintain control. As we reach out, inspire, and motivate staff to think about the work they are doing, we can empower them with the responsibility of owning their own work. The more people we have that become accountable and manage their own workload effectively, the more the leader is freed up to push for improvement of the wider system. This is the shift from survival, or fire-fighting, to thriving, or transformative change.

I urge any reader to test it out....

Give away your power...

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