Leadership Theories – Empowerment

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Christian Leadership Styles, Leadership Theories – EMPOWERMENT

Part of the guides to ministry resources: Christian Leadership, Leadership Theories, Leadership Styles, Transformational Leadership

Empowerment, Leadership Theories

Empowerment is a form of transformational leadership. As the term suggests, it empowers people by liberating them as stewarding partners to use their strengths and gifts in meaningful engagement of the tasks and relationships associated with their work. The idea is for both leaders and followers to grow as persons, enhance relationships, and derive great meaning and purpose as they work together to enhance the lives of those served. This is transformational for everyone involved. The role of the leader is to shape the beliefs and structures that make up an empowering system, and then act consistently within them.

In terms of beliefs, empowerment requires the foundation of an organizational credo consisting of the mission, core values, and vision. This credo usually defines more than the simple goods and services offered by the organization, but ties each product to how it helps those served lead more fulfilled lives. The leader anchors this credo primarily deep within his person, and then consistently embodies it in his formal executive actions and decisions and even the most informal exchanges. She anchors it secondarily through redundant expressions in all formal institutional communications, structures, and processes.

Empowerment operates from a high view of people and their desire and capability to grow as they engage in meaningful work. Thus it seeks to increasingly move away from hierarchical, superior-subordinate relationships. Instead, it sees all those involved as partners who can be trusted to steward the investment of resources and surroundings needed to accomplish their work. Obviously this requires workers to be mature stewards in both the character (ethical) and competence (skill) dimensions.

The structures befitting empowerment are not cumbersome and bureaucratic, but lean, quick, and permission-giving. The lighter and more participatory the structures and processes, the better. Thus a crucial part of empowerment is team leadership. Decision-making increasingly lies in the lap of those most directly involved. The empowering leader manages not by exercising detailed control but by creating accountability and growth mechanisms to insure coherent integration with the organizational credo. More importantly, the leader encourages the heart as an inspiring mentor and coach who is sincerely interested in each person’s development not only in work, but in life generally. Since not everyone operates with the same degree of capability and willingness, coaching must be tailored to each person and situation, with increasingly less direct involvement of the leader-manager as persons grow in self-management.

As both leaders and followers act persistently and consistently within this framework, an organizational culture emerges that fuels joy, energy, creativity, good will, cooperation, and meaningfulness. As such, it accomplishes its purpose of transforming everyone involved.

It is easy to correlate empowerment and other forms of transformational leadership. It might be said that in order for leadership be transformational, it must empower, and leadership that empowers, transforms.

It is not is difficult to translate the concepts of empowerment into theological terms. It integrates well with the biblical metaphors of servant leadership, shepherding, mentoring, equipping, character-based leadership, gift-based ministry, etc.

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Empowerment, Leadership Styles

The following leadership theories and leadership styles are strong on empowerment. They may not be self-described as such, and most of them are known in their own right under different categories. Yet they are indeed empowering in nature.

A section of LifeandLeadership.com is devoted to each of the following forms of empowerment:

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Empowering Leadership, Resources

There is an endless number of books on empowering leadership. The list below highlights some of the better ones, divided according to ministry-based and business-based. See also the Leadership Index and the overall Ministry Resource Index for annotated guides on over 100 related issues.)


First reads:

Other good resources:

Business-Based — These are listed by author, with the first read at the beginning of each author listing.

Max De Pree

Stephen R. Covey (father) and Steven M. R. Covey (son)

Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus

Kouzes and Posner

Kenneth Blanchard

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Related Ministry Resources

See Other Ministry Resources on Leadership:

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See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry:

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