Leadership challenge: Empowering your folks

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- It's a dilemma we all face. Do you complete a task yourself, or empower someone else? You may know how to do the job, but should you always accomplish it?

Empowering someone may require training, but isn't grooming your subordinates as technicians, managers and eventually, leaders, one of your primary leadership responsibilities? There are costs and benefits in completing tasks yourself and pros and cons in empowering someone else. Pressures such as deadlines and quality of work are always present.

On rare occasions, a deadline or other factors will dictate that you do it yourself, but most of the time you'll have the option to empower personnel to do the job. The biggest excuse that most use to not empower someone is the lack of training and/or experience.

Here is my take on this:

When possible, exercise situational leadership when there's a task for which someone isn't highly competent.
Situational leadership is a process of providing a considered combination of direction and support to the individual as they work on a task.

The end goal is developing a highly competent, very confident and highly committed professional. This process takes time and effort, but the result far exceeds the initial cost.

Some folks are afraid of empowering individuals because those individuals may have found a better way of doing business.

A few folks feel that this reveals their own weaknesses. Those who may feel this way should either get over it or separate. The quality of personnel that are in today's military is the highest that it's ever been.

If someone figures out a way and are allowed to improve a process, that's a direct reflection of excellent training and leadership. Think of the following saying when empowering your folks, "Groom your subordinate to take your position one day."

With our heavy workload, we want to seek the easiest path to completing a task.

Certainly completing tasks yourself is sometimes necessary, but when overdone denies you the opportunity to interact with your personnel. It's absolutely critical to empower your folks. This takes courage, effort and may even have an end-product quality cost.

Your success as a leader is directly related to the professional growth of your subordinates.

So, each time you face this dilemma, make sure you fully consider the benefits of empowering someone. It will be well worth the effort.