Enabling others to act is one of the five principles of leadership called out by Jim Kouses and Barry Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge. One aspect of enabling others to act is knowing how to delegate, but it is much more and is deeply intertwined with the other four principles: Creating an inspired vision, Modeling the way, Challenging the Process and Encouraging the Heart.
So what does Enabling others to act mean beyond simple delegation? First, let’s spend a few minutes on the art of delegation. How many times have you sat at the top of an organization and not wanted to turn loose of a task because it seems it would be easier and quicker to yourself; or the team is already working so hard and you don’t want to burden them; or you don’t trust that it will be done exactly how you want it done; or it’s something you really enjoy doing and so you do it yourself even though there are more pressing matters at hand; or you have no clue how to do the task and you don’t want to embarrass yourself by asking for help. I could go on, but you get the point.
No one is perfect… At times I try and shield my people from a messy task and not overload them. Sometimes these tasks belong on my desk and so I’m on track for not delegating. On the other hand, what have I done if I do not delegate something that should rightfully be delegated? First, I have shortchanged the organization and possibly put the company in jeopardy by spending time on the task rather than keeping my eye on the bigger picture such as focusing on the organization’s strategy and direction. Second, and more importantly, I have robbed someone from the opportunity to learn by doing or shine by doing.
What are some of the other aspects of enabling others to act? For most this may be a blinding glimpse of the obvious… Ask yourself, do my people have the right equipment, materials, organization structure, training and development, atmosphere and culture within which to work, are they safe both physically and emotionally… can they relate to, and have they bought into, the company vision, and can they step out with new ideas and raise issues without fear.
There are many more questions along these lines, and so much more that can be said. Suffice it to say, enabling others to act is worth any good leader’s time to reflect upon.