The art of developing others

Does it sometimes feel like everyone is deserting you, or you are constantly overwhelmed with what needs to be done, or there simply isn’t enough time to do all you feel called to AND be there for your family and friends? While the adage “leadership is lonely” certainly can be true in many respects, it doesn’t have to be. Yes, you will feel stretched as a leader, and likely out of your comfort zone a LOT if things are going well (and even when they aren’t). But being stretched and being overwhelmed because there is too much for you to do by yourself are two entirely different things. The first is normal as we grow in our leadership; the latter is self-imposed. One of THE hallmarks of effective leadership is empowering others. Empowerment is not dumping your stuff onto others; it is the fullest sense of truly leading others so that they develop to their fullest potential.

The benefits of empowerment to you, your followers, and your organization are too many to ignore! The act of empowering your followers has been proven to: promote followers’ personal growth and development, ensure consistency in execution throughout organizations, and affords leaders the time to focus on areas of their strengths.  Empowerment is utilized to its fullest when leaders genuinely share their power and authority with their followers.  As opposed to loaning their power and authority, which can be seen in what we call “helicopter” parents or leaders who swoop in to “save” the day whenever something goes “wrong”. This is literally the furthest thing from empowerment and is one of the leading causes of good leaders leaving organizations.  In his research, Michael Losey found that the number 2 reason people leave an organization is because of a lack of career development (the number 1 reason is compensation and benefits).

“Employees do not leave good companies, they leave bad bosses.” –Coleman Peterson

The number 1 remark I hear from people who work in churches, non-profits, the government, and for-profit companies is that their boss or manager does not develop them.

The hallmarks of empowerment include a follower’s ability to have the freedom to work independently, to make decisions on their own (and hold ownership of the outcomes, desirable or not), and to be self-sufficient.  Leaders create conditions that allow followers to be truly self-sufficient when followers:  feel like they have control, have all the resources necessary to accomplish their tasks, are sufficiently trained and equipped, and their self-confidence is developed.  In their book The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner suggest that the best way for leaders to empower and strengthen others is by enabling followers

to take ownership of and responsibility for their group’s success by enhancing their competence and their confidence in their abilities, by listening to their ideas and acting on them, by involving them in important decisions, and by acknowledging and giving credit for their contributions…[Conversely, followers] who are not confident about their power, regardless of their organizational position or place, tend to hoard whatever shreds of influence they have…  Powerlessness also creates organizational systems in which political skills are essential, and “covering your backside” and “passing the buck” are the preferred modes of handling interdepartmental differences.

As leaders, if it feels like everyone is deserting us, we are constantly overwhelmed with what needs to be done, and there simply isn’t enough time to do it all, perhaps we are the ones hoarding our power or passing the buck?

In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul described how the various offices of the Church are designed to serve people, build them up, and help the Church reach complete unity in Christ.  It’s interesting that contemporary research also reveals that when we leaders invest in our social capital, these exact outcomes are realized as well! Our churches and organizations will thrive only as much as we put the empowerment of our people first.