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What is Empowerment?Malcolm 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.
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:
- God Himself gave power to Adam to care for the garden (Gen. 2:15), name the animals (Gen. 2:19), and rule over the world (Ps. 8:4-6). Clearly, God was more capable than Adam to do all of this, yet He gave power away.
- Moses returned from Mt. Sinai with the plans for the tabernacle, but then he gave away the responsibility for its actual building.
- Jethro advised Moses to give power away to “capable men” (Ex. 18:13-26).
- When the Levitical priesthood was established, there was a clear division of labor as well as a hierarchy of responsibility (Num. 18:1-4, especially v. 3a).
- Solomon delegated responsibility to those who managed his nation, armies, palace, provisions and taxes (1 Kings 4).
- The apostles gave power away to the seven in Acts 6.
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.