Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

December 2012
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What is Empowerment?

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

According to the New Testament, the role of the leader is not merely to do the ministry but to equip the people to minister.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:11-16)

For many spiritual leaders this is a radical shift in mindset: to become a team-builder instead of being someone who just does it all himself – to move from focusing on the task to focusing on the people.

Power Generators

In organizations that rely on external power and control to make people perform, the constituents rarely achieve their best. The capacity of individuals and organizations to excel grows when the people do things because they want to, and not because they have to. When people are mere powerless pawns, they feel weak and insignificant. Empowered people, however, possess greater confidence, determination and effectiveness. Exemplary leaders accomplish great things by enabling others to take ownership of and responsibility for the organization’s success.

As the following “formulas” demonstrate, when you give away responsibility you must also give away authority.

What Is Empowerment?

E = R + A + E2

Empowerment = Responsibility + Authority + lots of Encouragement

R – A = F2

Responsibility without Authority produces much Frustration and Failure

E = O

Empowerment = Ownership

Leaders have a choice: they can hold onto their power (authority, responsibility and privilege) and use it purely for selfish ends, or they can give their power away to others. The more power you have, the less you should use, and the more you should give away.

Servant leaders who take the power that flows to them and connect it to others, become power generators from which their constituents draw strength. Jesus did this:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore [you] go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:18-19)

The Great Commission marked a profound transition. Until this point, Jesus had been totally responsible for the work of the kingdom of God on the earth. Now He was turning this responsibility over to His team. Notice that He did not only give them responsibility, He also gave them authority.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19)

If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (John 20:23)

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons… they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. (Mark 16:17-18)

Clearly, Jesus was more capable than His disciples to do all of this, yet He gave power away. In addition to the Lord Jesus, there are many biblical examples of leaders who gave power away:

Our next Leadership Letter will share the seven leadership essentials of sharing power with others.

For more, see Leading: SpiritBuilt Leadership 3 by Malcolm Webber.

LeaderSource SGA was just ranked #62 in the “Large Consulting Groups” category of the “2012 Leadership 500” list produced by Leadership Excellence magazine. This is a ranking of the top organizations involved in leader development. You can download the report here.

Comments 1
  • John Shankster
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    John Shankster John Shankster

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    I subscribed to your emails because I liked the idea of leadership. Also I know you from meeting you at a conference. I know I’m a future leader, and have been allowing The Lord to prepare me. Today I found application for your latest teaching, and as I perused your past titles, I realized what a treasure of information you have compiled. I appreciate what you are doing and just wanted to thank you.