Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership. This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about the12th of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
The Law of Empowerment
John Maxwell’s Law of Empowerment says that only secure leaders give power to others. But what does it mean to be secure? Using the analogy of personal finance, let’s look at what’s missing from the lives of insecure leaders and illustrate why security matters. I believe we are all familiar with the terms pauper, debtor, and hoarder, and in this context none of them have any capacity to give to others (financially). Here’s why:
- Paupers have no source of income aside from the financial assistance they receive from someone else. Penniless and dependent, they’re clearly unable to help others financially.
Leaders without purpose are like paupers. They have no passion, low energy, and little drive to grow in influence. Usually, their only source of power is the position they have been given by somebody else. In terms of personal authority, they’re impoverished.
- Debtors may have nice salaries, but their expenses exceed their income. They’ve maxed out credit cards and taken out hefty loans. Consequently, they’re stuck paying exorbitant interest rates on the amounts they have borrowed. In an upside-down financial situation, they’re in no position to give generously to others.
Leaders without authenticity are like debtors. Someone deeply in debt may appear wealthy, even though they’re secretly on the verge of bankruptcy. They may have the tools to succeed but lack the moral veracity.
- Hoarders are sitting on a pile of wealth, but they think only of protecting it rather than of sharing it with others. They have the plentiful resources but are unwilling to part with them.
Leaders without humility resemble hoarders. Having put their talents to work, they enjoy a significant amount of power. However, they’re worried about others taking it from them or gaining more of it than they have. So, instead of using their influence to empower others, they keep it for their own benefit.
Insecure Leaders Don’t Delegate
I would bet a boatload of beer that most of us have either worked for, or worked with, an insecure manager. These individuals are threatened by those who work for them and in a constant mode of protecting their knowledge and experience. In the last column on The Law of the Inner Circle, I stated that I always try to hire people smarter than me (not all that hard). An insecure manager would never do this for one or more of the following reasons:
- Fear of loss. Some leaders worry that if they empower their followers, their followers will surpass or replace them. If the people you lead are always successful, people will realize that they are successful because of how you developed them.
- Fear of change. By nature, people resist change. As a leader, you must consciously fight against this fear. Change improves organizations. You must be willing not only to change, but to spearhead the change.
- Fear of unworthiness. If you’re self-conscious, you may think you personally don’t have any power, and if you don’t have power yourself, then you can’t share it with others. Good leaders believe that a single person can make a change, whether that person is themselves or their followers.
Application Examples of the Law
Failed Application: Ford Motor Company
Henry Ford was no doubt an innovator that revolutionized the automotive industry with his assembly line. However, he was also a controlling micromanager that stifled creativity and dissenting ideas. Ford was so enamored with his Model T automobile that he refused to change it or develop other models. In fact, when one of his chief designers presented him with a prototype of a new and improved Model T, he destroyed the car with his bare hands. How did this impact his business? In 1914 Ford owned 50% of the automotive market and by 1931 this dominance had been cut in half. To pour salt in his wounds, many of his most talented people left to go to his competition. Henry Ford was an insecure leader.
Successful Application: Abraham Lincoln
Most presidents select their cabinet members from their allies, or at least from people that share their positions and policies. Abraham Lincoln chose people who disagreed with him, his political rivals, and his antagonists—people who were potentially as strong or stronger than him. He was confident enough in his own leadership that he had no problem giving power to other leaders.
Lincoln empowered others throughout his presidency. He didn’t micromanage or look over the shoulders of his generals. When Lincoln gave Gen. George G. Meade command of the Potomac army, Lincoln told him that it was a very important command, that he believed Meade could handle it, and that Meade had full control of the army—Lincoln wouldn’t interfere. While Meade wasn’t perfect, he did a great job with his first major assignment—Gettysburg. Abraham Lincoln was definitely a very secure leader, and arguably one of the greatest presidents of all time.
How Do You Become a Secure Leader?
Three simple steps:
- Hire good people (smarter than you).
- Groom them to be your successor.
- Get out of their way.
Follow these guidelines and The Law of Empowerment, and you will truly be surprised at the results. Don’t be afraid to delegate and share every bit of knowledge and experience you have with your team, and you will quickly reap the benefits.
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men and to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” —Theodore Roosevelt
Steve Williams is an independent certified coach, trainer, and speaker with the John Maxwell team.
This column originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine.