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7 Reasons Why Some Leaders Don’t Empower Others

By John C. Maxwell | June 8, 2023
7 Reasons Why Some Leaders Don’t Empower Others

I’m a firm believer in empowering others. Seeing people rise to their potential gives me great joy. However, in my early leadership years, I had an experience that threatened to derail me in this area of leadership. I hired a staff member whom I loved mentoring. He was gifted with great potential, and I invested in him wholeheartedly and released him to lead. But then he broke my trust. 

I had to let him go. I was hurt, because all the time we worked together, he was more than just a protégé. I felt he was also a friend. But what felt just as bad was the pain of losing everything I had put into developing this young leader with potential—and the expectation of all he could do for the organization. All my time, effort, and hope—gone. 

I chalked it up to making a poor leadership decision, and because of the pain I felt, I decided to distance myself from everyone on my small team. I was afraid to empower anyone. I stopped investing in people emotionally and professionally. I changed from engaged empowerer to disengaged employer. I kept this up for six months, and I became miserable. Not only that, my leadership became ineffective. It’s very difficult for people to rise up if their leader refuses to put the wind of empowerment under their wings. Those were hard months. But I finally realized that disconnecting was an even bigger mistake than empowering someone and failing. 

Teams Fail When Leaders Lack

I’m very grateful that I was able to process through this difficult season of my life, re-engage with my staff, and begin empowering people again. I don’t think any leader can bring out the best in people without empowering them. However, I’m sorry to say that too many leaders do not empower others. Take a look at some of their reasons:

1. LACK OF TIME.

Many leaders feel so much pressure to get tasks done that they never take a step back from doing, to see where they could be releasing people to take on greater roles. They miss the fact that people work harder and with more creativity when they’ve been empowered and released to take ownership of an area. The tyranny of the urgent keeps the leader shortsighted and continually running to keep up.

2. LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN OTHERS.

Some leaders have a difficult time trusting others and placing their confidence in them. They fear that another person won’t get the work done to their satisfaction or will otherwise let them down. But the reality is that you can’t get much done if you do everything yourself or have to personally direct every action you want others to take.

3. AN “I DO IT BEST” MINDSET.

This is very similar to lacking confidence in others, but added to it is a belief that others aren’t capable of doing a task as well as you can. That belief could come from an inflated ego, or it could be accurate that your gifting and skill are so high that others simply can’t do a task as well as you do. If it’s a responsibility you cannot delegate, then hold on to it. However, if it’s not, and others may be able to do it 80 percent as well as you can, then you should be working toward empowering them to do it.

4. PERSONAL ENJOYMENT DOING TASKS THEMSELVES.

There are some things each of us loves doing—that we should no longer be doing. Again, if it’s not required of you personally, and you could be doing something that has a higher return for your organization, you should be empowering someone else for the task.

5. INABILITY TO FIND SOMEONE ELSE TO EMPOWER.

Some leaders have difficulty finding people to empower. The other factor that sometimes holds people back from recruiting is lack of confidence. The more empowering you do, the better at it and more confident you become. If you don’t like asking for help, think instead about the vision for what you desire to achieve. Then invite people to join you in achieving the vision. It’s sometimes easier to find greater confidence in that.

6. RELUCTANCE CAUSED BY PAST FAILURES.

This was my problem when my staff member let me down. My effort to empower him had ultimately failed, and I was reluctant to try again. But I realized that because I wanted to become a more effective leader, I had to take the risk of empowering others once again.

7. IGNORANCE OR INABILITY TO EMPOWER OTHERS.

Some leaders simply don’t realize the importance of empowering and releasing people to be successful. Or they don’t know how to go about doing it. 

If you have neglected to empower people—especially the leaders who work with you—I hope you will commit to changing the way you lead. If you make the effort to identify and attract leaders, then understand, motivate, and equip them, as I’ve described in the previous chapters, that’s a good start. But if you fail to take the next step of empowering them, it would be like searching for a Thoroughbred racehorse, purchasing him, training and preparing him to race, and then never letting him out of the stable and onto the track. It would be such a waste of talent! Racehorses love to race. They want to run. That’s what they are born to do. Like racehorses, good leaders want to do what they were made for. They want to be empowered to lead.

Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level and begin empowering those around you?

Enroll in The Leader’s Greatest Return online course today and learn how to empower your team and achieve greater success. Don’t wait, start your journey towards becoming a better leader now! 

Your friend,

John

To buy the book, The Leader’s Greatest Return, click here. 

To enroll in the online course, click here.

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