Empowerment

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Have you ever served in a leadership role or supervised a project? I'm sure most of us have or will soon be given the opportunity. Having responsibility for a group of people or project can bring excitement and reward, but at the same time can lead to frustration and stress.

The intent of this article is to introduce empowerment as a tool to assist you as a leader or project supervisor and do it successfully.

What does empowerment mean? According to AFPAM 36-2241, "empowerment is the force that energizes people and provides responsibility, ownership, and control over work they perform."

Let's break it down further; empowerment should allow people to perform their job with the freedom and authority needed to creatively accomplish the task.

Now that you have the definition of empowerment, where do you start? You, as a leader, must develop a vision of what needs to be done. It is important that you clearly communicate the vision to your team.

Clearly identify your team's roles and responsibilities within the group and let them run with it. Empowerment allows your team to become stakeholders in the vision. Once they are committed to the vision, members will work towards shaping their goals into a shared vision.

By empowering people towards the shared vision it motivates them to focus on the future and what it holds, not simply because they must, but because they want to complete the task successfully.

Remember, leaders need to ensure sure their team understands their vision. I like the phrase, "trust but verify." Give them the task, but periodically check to ensure they stay on course with your vision. If they have questions or concerns, be available to assist them.

In some cases, you will find that not all people are ready for empowerment; some members of your team may need further training or mentorship. You will still need the leader-subordinate relationship to provide direction, resources and top cover to all your people to accomplish the task. Don't give up. If you show you care and are willing to help, your team will become stronger and in the end be successful.

Give your team a chance to grow through empowerment. Empowerment is not always easy, but if you give it a try, you will grow as a leader and your team will too. You will be surprised how people will quickly impress you with their ideas and dedication to complete the task.

Finally, AFPAM 36-2241 states, "The truly great leaders of the past never directly told their people how to do their jobs. Rather, they explained what needed to be done and established a playing field that allowed their people to achieve success on their own."

No matter what rank or status you are in an organization, we need you to accomplish our mission to defend this great nation. Thank you for your service!