'Empower" is another slippery word, used with good intentions, but when we really break it down, it can have a very negative connotation." Mark Adams,Courageous Conflict: Leading with Integrity and Authenticity
I never really thought about the negative connotations that the word "empower" has until I read Mark Adams book Courageous Conflict: Leading with Integrity and Authenticity. He makes sense when he points out that empowering someone means you are "temporarily giving them the power to do something, but that they really do not own it or possess it." It ultimately does mean that the one who is in a position of authority is granting those under his charge the authority to make decisions or take actions. Leaders like to throw around the word "empower" like it is some dispensation from on high, yet it does have the slight taint of "You can only do this because I have granted you the power to do it." Adams cautions leaders about throwing around such terminology. It can serve to actually undermine trust and morale. The word "empower" itself, suggests that the one on which power is granted is not on equal footing with the one granting that power. That's certainly fine if your intention is maintain a more authoritarian stance in regards to those you lead, but do not pretend that you are acting from a "servant leadership position" or that you are fostering a "team-like collaborative approach" to management. I suggest that we perhaps use terminology less loaded with this authoritarian bent. Words like entrust or simply calling it like it is: the person was granted the authority to take action.
I think leaders, especially in educational leadership, do a great disservice when they try to mask or otherwise make practices seem something they are not. They often try to use business terminology that does not quite capture the action, or they use terminology that sounds innocuous at first glance, but that language has meanings not intended. Authenticity and courage in leadership means being honest and authentic in our language too. We don't engage in using words like "empowerment" unless of course we know the full meanings and connotations of words. Don't call yourself a "servant leader" unless you actually do take on qualities of being a servant to those you follow. Our authenticity as leaders begins with the language and buzzwords we use. I, for one, do not like the word empowerment.