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Who have you Empowered today?

Who have you Empowered today

'Beyond the white line, the team is on its own.' - Gary Kirsten.

Former South African cricketer, Gary Kirsten, is now one of the most respected coaches in the sport. His list of accomplishments includes taking two different countries (India and South Africa) to the pinnacle of Test cricket, and guiding India to its first ODI World Cup victory in 28-years. It was while talking about his philosophy of coaching, that he made this statement. That words are not just an insight into why Kirsten's success. It goes far deeper. That realization and the behaviours it triggers, constitutes what might well be a leader's most valuable tool in managing today's teams. 

What Kirsten was really saying was that once the team crosses the white line onto the field, the responsibility, and indeed the power to take decisions on the course of the game, rests with them. In other words, they are #empowered to do what they need to do to win. What is important to note however, is that the power is not given to them by Kirsten or whoever that coach might be. The team already has the power, because it is they who possess the skills and the knowledge to win on the field. All that has happened, is that by embracing that power, the captain and his team have unleashed their full potential to be the best version of themselves. Once that threshold has been crossed, success is a foregone conclusion. 

THAT embracing of power to unleash their own potential, is what #empowerment actually means. 

One of the major reasons why business leaders struggle with empowerment, is because they believe empowering means giving up power. Far from it. The reality is that the power is not theirs to give in the first place. It already rests with the team. What prevents the team from unleashing its full potential, is that it is afraid to take on the power. The only responsibility that rests with the leader, is of removing that fear, and enabling high performance. 

Many otherwise successful leaders fall short when trying to make their high performing business a sustainable one. More often than not, the reason is that they are stuck in the quagmire of an outdated 'dictatorial' style leadership, something former U.S. President George W. Bush once typified through his 'my way or the highway' speech. The simple fact is that, in today's world, this approach simply does not work. Not just because people don't want to be 'talked down to' any more, but because this approach reeks of leadership insecurity. And the more one is insecure, the less inclined one is to allow those around them to be the best version of themselves. The road to empowerment and sustainable high performance for those businesses, ends right there.

But when leaders let go of their insecurity, magic happens. The best leaders today are at the forefront of empowerment. Jeff Booth, co-founder of BuildDirect, a Canadian online building-supply marketplace ran the company for about two decades. The company won Hewitt's employee vote driven 'Best Small & Medium Employers in Canada' award multiple times. In an interview, among other insights on his view of managing people, Booth once said something that goes to the heart of empowerment:

'Start with their worldview. You must walk in another's shoes to truly understand her perspective. Only then can you begin to address challenges and move towards helping that person grow and achieve great things.' 

A few years ago, the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said something similar that has always resonated with me, since it speaks into a core pillar of the #leadership work that I do on #empowerment with our clients at Two Roads . He said: 'As a leader, you have to constantly shut off your own reel and watch all the movies playing around you.' 

#Empowerment separates #leaders from those who merely manage teams. As you walk into your corner office this morning, ask yourself these two questions: a) On which side of the white line do you currently stand as a leader, and b) Have you shut off your own reel? 

And before you switch off for the weekend, ask the question that could well define your legacy as a leader - Who have you #empowered today?

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