April 5, 2016
Empowerment leadership is defined as “passing decision-making authority and responsibility from managers to group members” (DuBrin, p. 211). There exists 4 components to empowerment which need to exist within an organization for it to show success in its decision-making and producing a performance culture. These components include: meaning, competence, self-determination and impact” (Dubrin, p. 211).
Meaning can be viewed as a strictly subjective metric. One person’s sense of meaning might be uninteresting to another. The meaning of work is largely a cultural construct that has heavier weight in some societies than others. Work is a value that has traditionally been highly regarded in the United States. Recent global economic trends have impacted the psyche of most residents, and Americans have not been spared a collective sense of stasis. Nonetheless, meaning has historically served as a drive for how people engage their lives, purpose and careers. “Work has meaning when there is a fit between the requirements of a work role and a person’s beliefs, values and behaviors” (p. 211). Hence it is tied to values, and where a business leader creates values, a worked is more apt to have meaning.
Competence is that attribute which reflects skill, ability and aptitude. Restated differently “competence refers to beliefs about the extent to which one possesses the proficiencies needed to be successful at work” (Dust, Resick & Mawritz, 2014, p. 414). The ability to be successful at work has a direct line as to whether that individual is competent in their field. To lack competence means one can not be successful in their field of choice.
An individual can posses utmost competence but they must also have drive if they wish to realize goals. Self-determination is the ability for an individual to decide if they will utilize their competencies by accessing those skillsets in order to aspire to be successful. It comes from within their psyche, making choices and being self-disciplined. “Self-determination reflects autonomy in the initiation and continuation of work behaviors and processes; examples are making decisions about work methods, pace, and effort” (Spreitzer, 1995, p. 1443).
Impact pertains to the discipline of Physics. How hard an object shatters against a wall, the force which it imparts on another body or the ability to move an object, all come under the heading of impact. In the abstract sense, impact also is measured by how a leader moves a group of individuals. “Impact is the degree to which an individual can influence strategic, administrative, or operating outcomes at work” (Spreitzer, 1995, p. 1444). Thus the leader has a force by which he/she can move a group of individuals to different places.
It follows that a business leader who is able to instill within employees a sense of empowerment contributes not just to the employees inner armamentarium but also to the global healthy function of the organization. Dysfunction would be difficult to find a footing. Business managers can effect their audiences by any number of ways. Leaders can empower employees by fostering initiative and responsibility, link work activities to organizational goals, convey business information on a need to know basis so as to include employees in the action plan of the firm, allow employees to choose their own methods to accomplish organizational goals, instill self-leadership and lead by example (Dubrin, 2013, p. 212). A business leader who practices these skills empowers employees to achieve greater heights, motivates workers to a higher good and the firm move forward towards productivity. “Employees who form a sense of empowerment approach their work proactively and are resilient in their efforts because they view their work as serving an important purpose” (Dust, Resick & Mawritz, 2014, p. 414).
A dysfunctional organization lacks a culture that provides employees a sense of empowerment. On the contrary, they feel extraneous, replaceable, muted and irrelevant. Workers in a dysfunctional setting lose meaning in their work. Resilience is absent and their efforts would not register if they were measured. Leaders who practice empowerment can redirect their personnel in a completely different direction with extraordinary results. The “point of reflective tools and practice in leadership is for leaders to measure the extent to which followers perceive empowering behavior in the leader” (Drew, 2010, p. 51). Hence leaders posses an abundance of power when they empower their employees. Fidelity follows them with handsome results for the organization.
An effective organization is indicative of effective leadership. Conversely a dysfunctional organization reflects a failed leadership. The use of power and politics can be assets to managers, using them deftly to grow the spirits of workers and have them rally for a cause. Power & politics can also be tools that lead to the downfall of managers and those whom they direct, which in turn serve as a catalyst for a firm to underperform and become dysfunctional. Power and politics can be used either for the betterment of others or they can be used to their detriment. A savvy business leaders knows the better path to choose. It can be said that “power that serves begets achievement, empowering and motivating others” (Drew, 2010, p. 50). While wielding power over people has been traditionally seen as a negative, Tom Peters argues that “amassing of power is the surest road to success” (DuBrin, 2013, p. 221). It is in these valuable skills that a business leader can elevate their employees, their firm and achieve greatness.
There are several techniques involving power that can determine the effectiveness of an organization and their business leaders. Some of these include the ability to develop professional contacts so as to further the organization, having a convincing vision, establishing open communication across the organization, recruiting influential “experts” to inspire, exercising reciprocity towards employees, and welcoming input from members throughout the business (DuBrin, 2013, p. 22d-224). A business leader who demonstrates themselves to be accessible, is visible within the organization, and inspires members of the organization to invest themselves with heart and soul, accomplishes empowerment. A healthy and vibrant culture will develop according to the effort the leaders invest.
Top management must avoid creating a perception of “politics as usual”, where members of the organization live in fear and possess hatred for their superiors. Members must feel empowered, motivated and have a sense of purpose when they go to work. Management can embrace the power that they require in order to lead, but that power must be viewed as a requisite instrument to motivate others, allow employees to draw from their wells of meaning, competency, self-determination and impact so that the business can flourish.
Management can prevent dysfunctional developments by having open lines of communication. By doing so no one gets the false impression one group is allowed access to important information while another group is kept in the dark. “When communication is open, it also makes it more difficult for some people to control information and pass along gossip as a political weapon” (p. 231). Gossip leads to a toxic atmosphere. It breeds distrust, resentment and results in poor performance. By creating a level-playing field as to communication, employees are less able to use information as instruments of power, and then all feel welcome at the table. One study noted that “transformational leaders motivate followers to engage in extraordinary performance and citizenship behaviors by enhancing their sense of psychological empowerment” (Dust, Resick & Mawritz, 2014, p. 426). When employees are motivated to the point where they feel they are “citizens” of an organization, great outcomes are sure to follow. People do better when there exists a sense of owernship versus being on borrowed time. Such a culture is worth the effort for the business leader, at the expense of losing a poisonous paradigm that stifles citizenry.
An attitude of evenhandedness with employees also avoids the creation of an ill sentiment of favoritism. When all employees know that they have equal access to senior managers, are welcome to share their ideas & their creativity ,and contribute to the overall goals of the business, what is created is a consciousness of belonging, that they too matter. An awareness of fairness also prevents feelings of favoritism which always leads to the impression of political machinations. Political machinations can grow like a virus, create fear, eradicate peoples initiatives to be creative and subsequently go through the motions because “it’s just a job”.
It can not be exaggerated how members of an organization closely watch their leaders carefully. When leaders are viewed by employees as walking the talk, employees are emboldened to do likewise. Theirs is a sense of pride, doing their best and setting their sights on higher goals. “Setting good examples at the top of the organization can help reduce the frequency and intensity of organizational politics” (DuBrin, 2013, p. 231).
It is also advisable to hire people into an organization that possess unquestioning character, while at the same time dismissing those who have demonstrated fluidness and vacillation in important affairs. Great organizations have had great leaders who had impeccable character and modeled it for others. Their colleagues, subordinates and the public at large lauds such individuals and it pays handsomely for the organization to have such a visionary member. To lack integrity is to invite distrust. Individuals will be less inclined to follow such a person because they do not believe them. The leader is a leader in name only.
Empowering leadership is the ability of a trailblazer to endow others with a right to own their place at the table within the organization. A business leader can create an atmosphere where employees possess meaning, display competence, live on self-determination and have measurable impact on their future, their colleagues and the organization. Consequences of empowerment are “effectiveness and innovative behaviors” (Spreitzer, 1995, p. 1448). These in turn help promote a business to a high performance level, meeting or exceeding expectations, and raising the bar for its competition. A place of employment is not solely a destination where one works but rather a second family, a home of sorts, where individuals pull together, under a leader, for a stated goal. When the leader exhibits role-model behavior, honoring members by showing them they too belong to the firm, listening to them, affirming them, treating them fairly, and demonstrating that all have a contribution that is worth considering, they will perform at superior levels as compared to a dysfunctional organization. Gone is the deadly politics that has undermined the organization. Leaders who refrain from using their necessary tools of power as tools of humiliation, castration, disempowering and overall a bludgeoning atmosphere, these stand a better chance of creating an atmosphere that is clean, free and life-giving. The firm stands to benefit on all levels when dysfunction is squashed, and the members of the organization are seen as important contributors to a greater good, one where they feel they have meaningful purpose and can impact their work.
Drew, G. M. (2010). Enabling or “real” power and influence in leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 4(1), 47-58.
DuBrin, A. J. (2010). Developing teamwork. In Leadership: Research findings, practice, and skills (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Dust, S., Resick, C., & Mawritz, M. (2014). Transformational leadership, psychological empowerment, and the moderating role of mechanistic–organic contexts. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(3), 413-433.
Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological, empowerment in the workplace: dimensions, measurement and validation. Academy Of Management Journal, 38(5), 1442-1465.