Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘employee involvement

Defining the Empowered Leader

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Leaders lead and managers manage. There is a definite difference between the two: managers direct while leaders motivate and inspire their employees. In the business world there are managers who are not leaders and leaders who are not managers. Ideally, managers should be leaders, capable of motivating, empowering, securely guiding, and supporting their team to reach greater heights of achievement in whatever task is assigned to them.

An empowered leader is identified by specific characteristics and criteria. The primary goal is to build a highly effective workplace within the organization; the leader’s actions must be consistent to support that end. Positive leadership behavior is the differentiating factor that makes someone highly effective and indispensable to his or her staff and company.

Related: Seven Key Benefits of an Empowered Workplace

The principles and actions of empowered leadership put the leader’s focus directly on the needs of their team of subordinates to facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals. By focusing on personal empowerment through delegation, leaders can foster outstanding team performance.

Empowered leaders are attuned to the expectations their employees have of them; traditional managers, on the other hand, tend to focus on the specifics of attaining goals and objectives to increase productivity. A leader’s actions are always directed toward four expectations of their employees: that they build security, practice fairness and justice, focus upon individual fulfillment, and create a sense of personal involvement.

Empowered leaders continually work to create strong, efficient, highly effective workforces that operate in an environment of trust, respect and acceptance. In order to achieve these specific goals, leaders can utilize the principles and actions discussed below.

Move Away from Control and into Empowerment

Effective leaders always apply the principles of empowerment to create a positive workplace environment where the feelings of others are taken into consideration. Many traditional managers, however, have difficulty relinquishing control. This is understandable since a manager’s position often requires strict responsibility and accountability for the results of his or her department.

Before employees are able to embrace the idea of leadership in their workplace, managerial control must evolve into empowerment, motivation and delegation. The outcome of this shift builds a sense of workforce security, involvement and fulfillment that in turn produces increased tangible results. To enact a workable empowerment strategy, leaders must embrace the following guidelines:

  • Replace managerial control with actions that emphasize all individual input will be taken seriously and given respectful consideration. Managers often like to play it safe rather than take a risk; however, empowered leaders understand that risk comes with increased opportunity.
  • Ask for and accept input, assuring employees that it will be acted upon and that credit will be given where it is due. This technique improves motivation and performance because trust and loyalty are emphasized. Skillfully using delegation and cooperation helps build workplace strength, values and ethics.
  • Create a sense of workplace ownership in everything accomplished. Managers often prefer to stifle creativity in the workplace because they don’t want to disrupt the balance; empowered leaders understand that change and progress must come with some risk attached.

Related: When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Use Motivation to Replace Orders

When it comes to maintaining workforce effectiveness and structure, managers often confuse motivation with the vocal assertions of “cannot,” “will not” and “do not.” In fact, positive motivation focuses on sustaining four primary areas in the workplace: security, fairness and justice, personal fulfillment and individual involvement.

When leaders want to increase workforce performance, commanding and dictating do not produce the same results as motivating individuals. Empowered leaders can take several steps to effectively motivate their employees.

  • Learn everything possible about the personalities of employees.
  • Apply specific motivational techniques with each individual—not general techniques for all.
  • Establish a definite relationship between motivation and personal enhancement.
  • Apply motivational techniques consistently.
  • Demonstrate the motivational factors of cooperation, determination and persistence along with the feeling of success in daily personal actions. Leaders use their own actions to reinforce and display personal motivation.

Related: Power Must Be Shared for Organizations to Grow

Remove Self-Sufficiency and Replace It with Cooperation

Many managers find it difficult to delegate due to the pressures of time, the lack of effective individuals to delegate to, and the presumption that they alone are in the position to know how to get something accomplished in the most effective and competent manner.

Effective leaders, on the other hand, take the following actions to produce a greater cooperative effort and build commitment into the workplace atmosphere:

  • Know the right individuals to delegate to. Better cooperation comes with identifying and matching the right abilities and talents to the specific tasks needing delegation. Take the time to discuss expectations, timelines, objectives and support.
  • Demonstrate that cooperative efforts create a sense of ownership in projects, and share the responsibility for their outcomes.
  • Maintain open lines of communication. Produce a cooperative spirit by seriously accepting employee input.
  • Openly share daily successes, even if a success seems small. Encouraging and supporting even minor successes creates a unifying atmosphere of care and cooperation.

Related: Focusing Your Employees on Common Goals

Excerpt: Leadership Styles: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2012)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Managers as Facilitators of Change

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When faced with the prospect of change, the biggest fear employees will have is that of the unknown, especially if the change is perceived to threaten their jobs and personal economic security. This insecurity is often fed by rumors, as well as the impact that change has had on other companies, industries, and the economy. Fears are heightened with the widespread dissemination of information through television, newspapers, the Internet and other media outlets.

The role of the manager is to lead by being an agent and facilitator of change. This is underscored by their personal vision of the future. As agents and facilitators of change, managers must understand that they will need to handle their employees’ fears and apprehensions regarding future changes potentially affecting their jobs and personal security.

Individuals create their own “comfort zones,” or established patterns and habits they are comfortable with. Change threatens these comfort zones and immediately places individuals in defensive modes as they attempt to defend their own personal “turfs.”

It is important for managers who lead to recognize employees’ responses to change and show them that circumstances outside of their control make change inevitable. They must share and communicate information that employees can understand and react to in a way that gets them actively participating in the organizational transformation brought about by the forces of change. This means managers must demonstrate to their employees that it is in their best interest to adapt if the organization is going to survive and prosper in the face of change.

Related: Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

There are a number of steps managers can take to lessen their employee’s fear of change and facilitate smoother transitions.


Managers as leaders understand the need for open dialogue and discussion with their employees, and that this must be predicated on a complete sharing of available facts and figures with them so they can see for themselves what the organization is facing.

Employees’ apprehensions can be greatly reduced by sharing available information in order for them to understand the reasons for change, the factors that make it inevitable and the options available. This openness enables employees to see the challenges facing the organization and gives them opportunities to provide input as to possible alternatives and solutions.

When information is withheld, employees are suspicious of leadership’s intentions and motivation. This surely undermines trusts and confidence, heightens fears and resistance.


The idea of change and the transformation of an organization during times of change are stressful on all parties involved. Employees want their leaders’ assurance that they will be treated fairly, that their ideas, feedback and input will be considered, and that they will be kept informed on the progress of changes and their potential impact.

If there have been circumstances in the past where the organization has not treated their employees with consideration, sentiments of mistrust will be present that leaders must deal with. Building adequate levels of trust is a challenge for managers, but enables them to lead their employees through periods of transformation.


As managers move their employees through an organizational transformation, they must make sure that they have built sufficient trust with them. Trust enables employees to have confidence in their leader’s direction. This is also true for the upper levels of the organization. Employees must have confidence in all decisions being made during times of change.

Without adequate confidence in their leadership, employees may trust the manager who is leading them at their specific level, but mistrust those higher up in the organization. This places the immediate manager in the precarious position of having to build employees’ trust and confidence in senior leadership. Prior experiences with these senior leaders may foster more mistrust than trust. In these cases, managers on all levels must cooperate to instill trust and confidence in all employees.

Related: Focusing Employees on Common Goals


Managers who respect their employees’ intelligence and abilities lay the facts on the table and solicit their ideas, perspectives and input. Employee involvement in addressing issues such as change bonds all together in the conquering of a common challenge. As the organization goes through a transformation, this cohesiveness is essential to ensure a smooth transition.

Involvement means gaining employee support and getting them actively working toward the development of a solution to everyone’s benefit. When wise enough to ask, many managers are astonished by the ideas and insight they receive from their employees. When the facts are placed before them and the choices spelled out, most employees will work together to achieve common goals and objectives. Most are actively involved because their future is at stake. There will be a certain percentage of employees who do not participate out of fear that their contribution will be used against them. In these instances, managers must inspire the rest of the group, hoping that positive peer pressure might influence more reluctant members to get involved.


The role of the manager is to lead employees through transformational change; the employee’s is to direct the change at their individual level. This means that in addition to their ideas, insights and feedback, employees must actively participate in implementing them on an individual level. When this active involvement is cultivated, employees are informed and actively part of the development of the solutions, resistance and fear of change can be minimized. This is because managers have empowered their employees both through ownership of ideas and the responsibility for seeing them successfully implemented. It is only when orders and directives are handed down without reason and rationale that employee resistance and fears increase.

Related: Power Must Be Shared for Organizations to Grow


Managers know how to close the loop by providing employees with active feedback regarding the results of their efforts to transform the organization. This continual feedback provides a supply of accurate information enabling employees to make informed decisions on how to successfully adapt their ideas to new variables and conditions.

Excerpt: The Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

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