Learning From a Different Place – Part 12
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Law #12 from John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Law of Leadership is The Law of Empowerment. This law is not a new idea for me. Long before I read the book’s first edition, I was teaching empowerment here at MACNY. What has changed since my early exposure to this topic is the reality that only secure leaders are willing to give power to others.

The book identifies Henry Ford as a brilliant mind but a leader who wasn’t willing to empower others. Consider this, by 1918, nearly 50% of all automobiles produced in the United States carried the iconic blue Ford oval. A story of tremendous success with a flaw lurking within. Henry Ford would not let anyone touch the design of his beloved Model T. As the story goes, one day, a group of designers brought Henry a new and improved prototype. His reaction to the new model was to rip its doors off and destroy the car with his bare hands. Ford stuck with his one design for nearly 20 years. In 1927 he reluctantly gave in to a new design which became the Model A. By 1931, Ford’s market share had dropped to 28%. As Henry aged, he became even more eccentric and had it not been for his son Edsel, the Ford Motor Company would have probably gone out of business in the 1930s. What might we be holding on to that is holding back our team?

As we grow and develop our teams, our goal shouldn’t stop with them being successful. Our goal should be that they are more successful than we are. For this to occur, we need to give up so they can go up. This is so hard because the greatest enemy of empowerment is the fear of losing what we have.

Maxwell identifies three barriers to empowerment:

  1. Desire for Job Security – For some reason, we are wired to think that if we are needed, it will result in job security when in fact, if a leader is always needed, they have failed to truly lead. Every leader needs to develop the person they can pass on the baton to. That’s the way to have job security.
  2. Resistance to Change – Whenever I ask my classes if they like change, most say yes. They don’t realize that they like change they control and typically resist change that others initiate. Great leaders know that they need to get comfortable, being uncomfortable. Everything we want in life is just outside of our comfort zone. If we are not willing to step out, we won’t ever achieve our dreams.
  3. Lack of Self-Worth – A leader’s self-worth is developed within. We realize that we have value, and when we help others discover their unique value, our internal self-worth grows. When we can’t see our self-worth, it hinders us from seeing it in others.

So how are you doing? Are you secure enough to empower others?