The Oxford dictionary defines empowerment as the “authority or power given to someone to do something.” It goes on to say that empowerment involves “becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life.”
So, why is empowerment still so difficult for managers and leaders and what are the implications of rapid technological advances for empowerment?
Most managers and leaders are driven by two primary drives – the desire to achieve and the desire for power. Some are driven by the need to be liked and accepted. These types though, are far less common than those who want to control and achieve. So, it is understandable then that many leaders don’t like to give up power. They fear that to give up power means to lose control. And losing control of course gives rise to primitive ‘lizard brain’ fear instincts. These are the same people who don’t like flying or others driving them as they’re not in control, they are afraid to let others control their destiny.
However, they miss an important point. To trust and empower others means getting more power as the scope of your influence increases when you have more talented people who respect you and work hard to help achieve the organization’s vision and goals. When they achieve or exceed these goals, you look good and hey presto, you become more successful and powerful. This is one of the greatest paradoxes of management, you need to give up control to gain power and influence.
How will intelligent machines and AI effect empowerment?
So, enter the brave new era of intelligent machines and Artificial Intelligence (AI). How will this unstoppable trend effect empowerment? Well, the bottom line is that leaders and managers who can’t let go of control had better start learning how to. Machines are currently mainly tools and assistants used to achieve our goals. Take Amazon’s Alexa as an example. Currently, this is merely an assistant that can take the hassle out of routine tasks and help us become more productive….and less lonely in the case of some poor souls. But machines are quickly moving up the evolutionary hierarchy and will soon become peers and even our boss. They will someday soon even issue tasks, organise our work and evaluate our performance.
The future is fast approaching and leaders and managers who are still struggling to empower their staff will become dinosaurs in the digital age. So, try empowering your staff more, relax your vice grip on the rudder and get ready to see the magic happen.
About the Author
Founder and MD | Leadership Consultant | Organizational Psychologist
James is a leadership consultant, organizational psychologist and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams and organizations globally to optimize their performance, talent and future success. He specializes in positive leadership, thriving workplaces, collaboration and influencing, organizational change and transformation, accelerating innovation and coaching executives and leaders in innovative sectors including Tech, Digital, E-commerce and Life Sciences.
Before setting up Plexus Leadership, James held leadership roles in HR and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as NatWest, Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. After this, he founded and led several talent and leadership consulting and assessment businesses, including Strengthscope®, an online strengths assessment and development business serving a wide range of UK and global clients. James grew this venture into a global market leader before selling the business in 2018.
James has supported, advised and coached leaders and teams globally across diverse industries and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury’s, Swiss Re, Tesco, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, WSP and Yahoo!.
James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching and a Harvard Business qualification in Sustainable Business Strategy. He is a member of the Institute of Directors, the Association of Business Psychologists and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD). He is currently undertaking a PhD in Organizational Psychology examining the start-up experiences of Tech and Digital entrepreneurs.
James is a regular contributor and speaker on leadership, coaching, innovative talent management and the future of work. His most recent book, Optimize Your Strengths, explores how leaders can create thriving workplaces by inspiring and supporting people to optimize their potential and teamwork to deliver breakthrough results.