Empowerment – Let People Make Mistakes

 Like parents for children, sometimes we as leaders have to let our teams think and do for themselves.  This means they may make mistakes or stumble along the way but it is necessary in order for our people to learn valuable lessons.  We have to be ready to let go and entrust our people with responsibility and authority to get the job done their way.  Deciding when it is appropriate to let others have control and possibly make mistakes is a tough balance; especially when we know as leaders that any negative fallout will rain down on our shoulders first.  Doesn’t that mean we should take charge at all times?  

       John Maxwell talks about The Law of Empowerment in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  He states “If leaders want to be successful, they have to be willing to empower others…To lead others well, we must help them to reach their potential.”   To me, this includes letting people make mistakes.  Maxwell uses Henry Ford as an example of the Law of Empowerment; Henry Ford refused to let anyone change his Model T for almost 20 years. Maxwell is specific about what he calls ‘barriers to empowerment’ – issues that prevent leaders from empowering others.  They are:

  1.      Desire for Job Security
  2.      Resistance to Change
  3.      Lack of Self-Worth

          Looking at these three barriers, any one of them can stop someone from becoming a great leader.  By focusing on job security, a person is concerned with their own success or future – leaders have to be more self-sacrificing than that.  Resisting change is almost the antithesis of leadership since true leaders are ready to embrace change and guide others through change.  Low self-worth is the same as low self-esteem, something leaders cannot afford to have.  Leaders must have confidence in their teams and in themselves to provide trust and credibility to move forward on the path ahead. Leaders can only become great when they are ready to give up control and power in order to allow others to achieve. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team


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