It seems that every decade or so there is some new fad the runs through the business world in terms of supervision and in the world of diversity management, downsizing, outsourcing, generational work conflicts and the information age, things are even more complicated than ever before. No longer does a one size fits all leadership model really work. We can’t treat everyone the same and expect that everything will just “work out” somehow. Managers and leaders must have a framework with which to manage their workers in a way that honors everyone’s unique and specific position on the job. Empowered leadership is the way to do just that. Empowered leadership shares the power between management and the workers, thus empowering both groups.
Conventional wisdom tells us that when those in power relinquish some of that power by sharing it or giving it to their employees, then they would lose something when in actually, they gain. Think about it. When people rule with an iron hand, they generally instill fear in those who work for them. Do you do your best work when you are afraid? I don’t know about you but I will attempt to comply because I want to avoid negative consequences but it certainly won’t be my best work. The absolute best a manager can hope for with coercion is compliance.
If compliance is enough, then coercion might work. However, I will gripe and complain and quietly wait for opportunities to get even. I won’t have a kind thing to say about my employer and at every available chance will seek corroboration for how I feel from my co-workers, thus spreading an “us” versus “them” mentality. When leaders and managers seek to empower their workers, they will gain their loyalty. Workers want to give their supervisor their best when they are listened to and respected. Without fear, their minds can be creative and innovative. When managers are willing to accommodate special requests and it doesn’t interfere with product or service delivery, then their employees will be sure to give back their best in return. Giving away power only increases a manager’s power. Now, I am not talking about being a total pushover and only advocating for what employees want. As a manager, you have a two-fold job—you are to represent your employees’ desires, opinions and suggestions to management while at the same time communicating management’s issues, concerns and expectations to your employees.
This is not an easy line to walk. You will never get the best from your employees if they don’t respect you. You cannot be a doormat for your employees to walk over. If they believe you have no bottom line or nonnegotiables, then they will never be satisfied and always asking for more. You will feel used and abused and the truth is, you asked for it. As a manager, you must hold the bar high. Expect great things from each and every one of your workers. If you only expect mediocrity, mediocrity is exactly what you will get. Set the standards and lead by example. If your workers see you giving it your all, it will be difficult for them to perform below standard.
You must have production goals you are attempting to meet for either products or services. Always enlist the help of your employees to set the goals, with the underlying premise being continual improvement. And as a manager, you have the responsibility to create a need satisfying workplace for yourself and your workers. You cannot emphasize one to the exclusion of the other without there being undesirable consequences. When you focus on production only and forget the human capital, you will end up with resentful, resistant, angry workers. On the other hand, when you only focus on the people end and allow production goals to be compromised; you will have workers who do everything they can to take advantage and to get out of doing the work. After all, if you the manager don’t value production, why should they? Somewhere in the middle, when you are walking that very fine line between relationships and production goals, you are practicing empowered leadership and that’s where you will get the most from your employees.