The Empowering Leader

More and more leaders desire to empower their team members. Company leaders are realizing that empowerment is becoming critical in promoting loyalty and creativity. Empowered employees also enjoy higher job satisfaction.

Traditional ways of empowerment are mentoring, sponsorship, coaching, providing the necessary training, etc. These ways of empowerment mostly require the leader to have more expertise or experience in the field than the team members. But what if the new leader has less industry expertise or experience?

More often than not, a leader feels inferior if his team members possess more industry-specific expertise than him. Leaders in such cases either feel they are living the imposter syndrome. Out of insecurities, some try to manipulate to maintain control. But, are there healthier ways to lead and to empower our team members from such a position?

To start off, a healthy self-identity and a clear role description are foundational to using the empowering techniques below. Without them, you might still feel threatened with overwhelming insecurities even if you try these techniques.

Here are some of the ways you can empower your team members who have more industry expertise:

  1. Granting more autonomy and ownership of projects to your team members: smart people love to have more autonomy in finding solutions to challenges. The leader becomes more of a facilitator and collaborator as team members develop their unique forte. By being a collaborator, you are also modeling and encouraging teamwork among your team members.
  2. Affirming members’ strengths and name them: many people are aware of what they are good at, but only vaguely. If you are able to affirm and name them, you are empowering them to see their own strengths in concrete ways. You are instilling confidence in your team members. The result will be a stronger team.
  3. Giving space to members to fail forward: leaders always desire to have an A-team. It’s hard to see team members fail or producing sub-par deliverables. You might not have as much expertise as your team member, but you should have a good grasp of what the end product should look like. Promoting courage to take risks means providing a safe space for team members to fail. A team member might know more than you, but you model what courage looks like as you shoulder the responsibility of taking risks for possible failures.
  4. Making resources available to team members as they need it: whether you have more expertise or not, this is always a great way to empower. Resources might mean networking with other professionals, increasing the budget for specific projects, or extending deadlines to improve features of a product. Team members might be able to fight for it themselves, but you can ease their load by doing this for them.

Try out these skills and make them a habit! In fact, you don’t need to be in the position of “knowing less” to practice these skills. Any leader can use these skills to empower the team members.

Published by

Karen Tan

Experienced leadership and intercultural coach with a demonstrated history of empowering global leaders in both corporate and non-profit sectors. Skilled in leadership development, intercultural communication, cross-cultural living and adjustments, and transitions.

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