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Core Leadership Competencies: Empowering Others

Posted: May 23, 2013 by Rob Voyle

Who are you dependent on for your success? If you are not dependent on others you are not leading anyone. How you empower those you depend on will be crucial if you and your organization are to be successful.

Several years ago I consulted with a large corporate size church who wanted to redesign their model of governance. When given a goal one of the first things I ask is "why would achieving the goal be valuable to you?" The leadership team responded to that question by saying, "we need to know who is in power because we always have power conflicts here.

My response was: "I think you need to change the question, because as long as you keep asking 'who is in power?' you will have power conflicts." A much smarter question would be: "how do we share power to empower people for ministry?"

They came back with a non-linear model that was based on a nautalis spiral. While the model had lines of responsibility it also presented an organic process of empowerment rather than hierarchical lines of authority, which in my experience often dissempower people.

Who are your core team members? How do you exercise power among them? How do share power with them to empower them for ministry.

Leadership research indicates that being loving and caring toward your followers is essential to effective leadership, however it is not enough. To be perceived as a leader you must be seen manifesting power and having influence in the group. One of the best ways of manifesting power is by intentionally empowering others.

One of the last things Jesus did before the ascension was to give away his power and authority as he empowered the disciples.

Now empowering others is not about avoidantly abdicating from your own power. Too often clergy who don't feel comfortable being in power abdicate their responsibility by relying on a misuse of theological platitudes such as "servant leadership" or the "priesthood of all believer." Don't get me wrong these are very important leadership concepts within the church but they can be radically misused by leaders who don't feel comfortable being in power.

So, how do you share power?

Here are some ways to empower people:

1. Ensure that every people know the core purpose. People need to be empowered to do the mission of the congregation and not simply be empowered to do whatever they like.

2. Engage people at their point of passion to work on an aspect of the core purpose of the congregation. Setting people free to use their God-given passion for the sake of the Kingdom is a way to tap into their power. You don't empower people by lighting a fire under them, you empower them by fanning the fire that is already within them.

3. Engage all the stakeholders when making key decisions. People will work more passionately for things that they have chosen to do. Imposing decisions and plans on others will evoke resistance.

4. Stay love based rather than using fear based motivation. While fear may get people started it will never result in sustainable action, instead it will lead to burnout. Burnout is an indication of fear based motivation, especially the fear of saying "no." There are many things to say no to if you want to say YES to the truly important life-giving things in life.

5. Prioritize you time around equipping your core team. Don't simply delegate work without teaching and coaching people how to do the job you want them to do. Poor performance is often the result of poor teaching and coaching rather than lack of ability.

6. Make it safe for people to fail. It is impossible to be free to learn and succeed if we are not free to fail. Make failure a learning opportunity rather than a punishment opportunity. When people do fail ask: "What else do you need to be successful?" rather than: "Why did you fail?" or "What went wrong?"

7. Discover and recognize success. A little bit of acknowledgment and praise goes a long way in encouraging future action. Praise in public, correct in private. The task is to build up and empower not tear down and demean. Embed the praise in the core purpose and values of the congregation.

8. Get to know your core team well and individualize your empowerment strategy. One size does not fit all. Ask what they need to be successful. Some will need close supervision others will need a "hands off" approach.

Next week I will look at the core leadership competency of asking powerful questions and challenging the status quo.

If you want to learn more and grow your core leadership competencies consider participating in one of our Appreciative Inquiry based leadership training programs

For more information and registration please see:

In the Leadership Training you will learn how you personally can manifest the core competencies of a leader as an agent of transformation in your community.

The leadership training is also a required course in the:

* Certificate of Appreciative Transitional Ministry
* Certificate in Appreciative Coaching

In the meantime I wish you lots of love to lead the people entrusted to your care.


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