Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials...
Giving Power AwayMalcolm Webber
The following are some of the reasons why leaders might find it hard to give power away:
- Failure to plan. To simply recruit someone at the last moment to do something is “dumping,” not delegating. The leader must think ahead, communicate thoroughly and commit to an effective ongoing oversight.
- Pride. Of course, we all know that no one else could ever do the job as well as we can! However, the example of Jesus instructs us – He was not too proud to give power away! If Jesus could give power away, then we are not indispensable!
- Insecurity. Leaders who are afraid of losing their authority or position will not give power away to others.
- Lack of vision. If our vision is limited to our existing four walls, then we will see no need to expand the leadership base. However, if we have a vision for growth and impact, then we know that growth requires leader development and empowerment. Pyramids are made tall by widening their foundations. Spectators become critics; participants become partners.
The benefits of giving power away are significant:
- Everyone avoids burnout.
Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone… select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens… That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (Ex. 18:17-23)
- Everyone can focus on what they’re called to do and are actually good at.
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Rom. 12:6-8)
- We will build leaders. This is one of the key ways in which leaders are built – through accepting responsibilities and “challenging assignments.”
He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:14-15)
- The ministry multiplies. As D.L. Moody said, “It’s better to get ten men to do the work than to do the work of ten men!”
Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand… (Lev. 26:8)
- God has commanded us to give power away!
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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)
Necessary Organizational Changes
To fully empower their people, effective leaders will eliminate organizational conditions that foster a sense of powerlessness among the people. Some of these are:
- Organizational factors:
- Impersonal bureaucratic climate.
- Poor communication/network-forming systems.
- Highly centralized organizational resources.
- Supervisory style:
- Authoritarian (high control).
- Negativism (emphasis on failures).
- Lack of reason for actions/consequences.
- Reward system:
- Arbitrary reward allocation.
- Low incentive value of rewards.
- Lack of competence-based rewards.
- Lack of innovation-based rewards.
- Job/Responsibility Design:
- Lack of role clarity.
- Lack of training and technical support.
- Unrealistic goals.
- Lack of appropriate authority.
- Low task variety.
- Limited participation in programs, meetings, and decisions that have a direct impact on performance.
- Lack of appropriate/necessary resources.
- Lack of network-forming opportunities.
- Highly established work routines.
- High rule structure.
- Low advancement opportunities.
- Lack of meaningful goals/tasks.
- Limited contact with senior leadership.
In genuinely empowering his people, the leader will avoid or eliminate such conditions in the organization.
How to Improve
The following are some practical ways that you can improve in this area of leadership:
- Look over the above list of conditions that foster a sense of powerlessness and determine which ones apply to your organization. Make specific plans to change these conditions.
- Find ways to increase interaction between people who need to work more effectively together. These ways should be both formal and informal.
- Commit to changing your vocabulary – use “we” instead of “I.” In everything you communicate promote an inclusive sense of teamwork and sharing.
- Consider what important tasks you now have that you can assign to others. As you do so, coach and support them.
- Assign non-routine work to people who usually do routine work. This will increase their sense of power and ownership.
- Ask your coworkers for their opinions about things. Share problems with them.
- Ensure that everyone receives sufficient ministry-related training – at least 40 hours each year.
- Admit your mistakes and be honest when you don’t know. Be willing to change your mind when someone comes up with a better idea.
- Remove unnecessary steps in approval processes.
- On a regular basis, share information with people about how well the church or ministry is doing, according to whatever measures are appropriate. When people know how things are going, they are more empowered.
- Give people a choice about being a part of a particular project. This will increase their commitment to it.
- Make it public when teams work well together. Exemplify what teamwork is all about.
- Instead of leading all the meetings yourself, ask different people to do so. In addition, practice being a facilitator instead of a manager at meetings.
- Choose someone in your organization who is known as an exceptional “people person.” Watch them. Ask them for advice on how you can do better.
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.