The Empowering Leader: How to Inspire People With More Experience Than You

Creating an empowering environment for all employees is a critical role for a leader. Here are 4 ways to lead confidently when your team has more experience and industry knowledge than you.

In my work with leaders, I often see that one of their struggles in transitioning to a new job is managing team members who have been in the company longer, and in some cases, have more industry expertise than them. 

John is one such leader, hired by an international company because he possesses a unique skill that will help the company shift its business model in Asia. He spent years at his previous company, where he successfully built a team of high-performing engineers from scratch—mentoring, coaching, and training them. 

The team he leads now consists of members who have been in the company and the industry longer than him. They are not engineers, and they know the industry better than John. Still, he must lead and challenge this team into new paradigms to help the company shift its business model. 

John struggles because he can no longer apply his previous leadership style to empower his team members. He sometimes experiences imposter syndrome because he feels he’s not worthy of taking on such a leadership position. He desires to empower his team members, but how can he continue to motivate them? 

If you are a leader in a similar situation, an important starting point is fostering a healthy self-identity through your transition process with a clear role description. A poor transition will create more insecurities. 

Once you are clear of your role and the new team dynamics, here are 4 ways you can lead and empower your team members who have more industry expertise.

  1. Grant 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 model and encourage teamwork among your team members.
  2. Affirm members’ strengths and name them
    Many people are aware of what they are good at, but only vaguely. If you can affirm and name their strengths, you empower people to see their own strengths in concrete ways. You instill confidence in your team members, and it results in a stronger team.
  3. Give space for members to fail forward
    Leaders always desire to have an A-team. It’s hard to see team members fail or produce 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. Promote having courage to take risks by 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 failures.
  4. Make resources available to team members as they need them
    Whether you have more expertise or not, providing resources is always a great way to empower people. Resources might mean networking with other professionals, increasing the budget for specific projects, or extending deadlines to help the team deliver their best work. Team members might spend a lot of time negotiating for these themselves, but you can ease their load by helping them get what they require. 

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 their team members.

If you’d like to discuss more ways to be a confident leader, please schedule a complimentary session with me.

What are some ways you empower team members who are more experienced than you? Share with us your experience and insights.

Image by Mahesh Patel from Pixabay 

 

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