Saturday, February 27, 2016

Authentic Empowerment from School Leaders Requires Trust and Letting Go!

“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 
What does it really mean that we have empowered those in our schools and those who are followers? Lately, you hear this word "empowerment" a great deal in educational leadership discourse. It's almost a cliche. Yet, does it really have any meaning? Does it really mean that those in subordinate positions have any real power? Perhaps it means the head "Dude" in charge has decided to relinquish a little sliver of power to his underlings in order to give those below just a bit a hope that they have a bit of say. When empowerment is more about making the leader feel "good" about his lording over others, it is probably not effective. Empowerment is too often the "crumb" dangled before those in subordinate positions in order to motivate them to carry out the leader's agenda. 

You can't motivate people with fake declarations of empowerment. You can't deceive people in carrying out your program by getting them to believe that they really have a say in the organization.

My advice to those who are told that they have been empowered is the same that Mark Adams offers:
"Consider that you have just been empowered.   What does that mean? Concisely, it means that those who have power are now saying they are temporarily giving us the power to do something, but we really do not own it or possess it."
Rhetoric about empowering others in our leadership is empty if we really do not mean it. It can't mean that we are temporarily giving power to others to do something; it means we are really willing to let go of control and trust others to carry out the tasks we have empowered them to do. Effective leaders who really empower others let go and trust. And, if things fail, they accept that failure and own up to the blame too. That's leadership integrity.

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