Career Advice for Business Leaders: Empowering Others


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Many potential leaders in business sabotage themselves and their organizations out of fear of empowering others. In 21st Century Leadership: Dialogues with 100 Top Leaders, Lynne McFarland, Larry Senn and John Childress assert, “the empowerment leadership model shifts away from ‘position power’ where all people are given leadership roles so thy can contribute to their fullest capacity. ” John Maxwell confirms this in his work on leadership, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He states, “only empowered people can reach their potential, ” and that barriers within the organization are created when empowerment is not present. Maxwell observed that the most common barriers to a leader’s empowerment of others are:

1. Desire for Job Security

This is perhaps the leading enemy of empowerment. A person with this issue asks, “why should I help others beneath me when they’ll just rise to take my place and ultimately displace me?” In fact, when one has the ability to lead others, and to make oneself “dispensable, ” then one truly becomes “indispensable” in the organization. Maxwell calls this the “Paradox of Empowerment. ”

2. Resistance to Change

In these times, the hallmark of business and life is change. According to Maxwell, empowerment mandates that others grow and change. This is essential, and must be sought out and embraced instead of shunned and avoided.

3. Lack of Self-Worth

Some people derive self-worth, esteem and viability from work or position. When either of these is threatened, then the worth or esteem is also subject to question. In reality, true leaders recognize the value of change and realize that inherent worth is not related to title or work.

Maxwell further notes that two main attributes follow all great and true leaders. The first of these is the ability to lead by lifting up others. To do this effectively, one must not be overly concerned with who gets credit for accomplishments. The other attribute is the ability to gain authority by giving it away. This is another paradox of leadership by empowerment.

Giving away leadership and authority necessitates choosing qualified people. This is a cultivated skill. Ask: where is empowerment missing? Look for opportunities to select quality individuals who can handle the gifts of authority and leadership. For any project, this is a path to success.

Eric Johnson is a regular contributor to the Investor's Value View newsletter. To learn how to reach Mr. Johnson or to subscribe to Investor's Value View, visit


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