Have you ever worked for a boss who just would not lead? Or maybe you’ve had the dubious privilege of working for a leader who had high expectations but low communication skills. How about when a leader gives responsibility without the appropriate authority? Or when a leader lacks self-control and uses their emotions to force others into obedience?
It’s so frustrating when a leader doesn’t know how to or simply refuses to lead in a manner that empowers others to work toward success. When this happens, the whole team is stunted, other leaders go around the appointed leader or abandon the team, and results are greatly diminished. No one grows stronger and little is accomplished.
So why don’t leader’s lead well? A lack of self-awareness cripples many of us. It is so important that we know and understand ourselves more fully. We must grasp when our actions, style or behavior impacts others in a positive or negative manner.
A self-aware leader understands their own strengths and weaknesses, considers how their personality and delivery style impacts others and works on improving their communication and collaboration so that others can respond effectively to their leadership. Perfection is not required, but a consistent, humble growth in self-awareness will draw influence and release power.
The vast majority of people who bear responsibility for leading, desire to be an effective leader. However, simply being appointed or even desiring to be a leader doesn’t mean that a person has the character, skill, or courage necessary. Many leaders simply haven’t had the time, training or focus to develop a leadership style that empowers others. In addition, many have failed to make the connection between grace and growth.
When we lead by grace, we demonstrate a courage and confidence in how God created us – and we naturally extend the same grace to those who follow. People follow leaders who exhibit a compassionate understanding of where they are right now while empowering them to make courageous, faithful choices that help them become successful.
When we receive grace we are empowered. When we give grace we empower others.
Grace enables us to change, to become like Christ, to mature, to dream, to experience revelation, to become something and someone more than we have ever been. It involves the tenacious belief in the best version of who God created people to be and it refuses to let those we lead live beneath the vision of God’s highest dreams for their lives.
So how does grace translate to the everyday goals and responsibilities of leadership? What does it look like in the real world of team building?
Here are ten grace-filled tips to help you become a more empowering leader.
1. Go ahead and lead
Leadership development is a life-long process that is forged in the fire of leading. Becoming an empowering leader is not just about communication - talking or listening. It’s actually about what you model; what you do. Leadership inherently includes a responsibility to effectively steward the people, resources and opportunities set before us. So don’t let leadership paralysis overtake you. Whether you have a formal position of leadership or you are simply cultivating a leadership lifestyle, you can begin with what you have and where you are. Consider how you might encourage or help others achieve their goals within your current scope of influence. What strength or resources do you already posses that could be used to serve another’s vision? Set forth and model a leadership style that is worthy of emulating and inspires others to grow in productivity and maturity.
2. Assume people are capable
People tend to rise to our expectations. So what are you expecting? Do you have a fundamental faith in people or a fundamental distrust? If you believe that your team members desire to be successful and to contribute effectively to the mission, then demonstrate that belief by expressing confidence in their abilities. (If you don’t believe these things, then why are they on your team?) When you assume people are capable you will entrust them with assignments and responsibilities that are on the edge of their experience. This is how you find treasure in people. You believe in their potential, not just in their track record. This assumption may cause you some difficulties. After all there has to be room for failure, mistakes and learning curves. You may have to step up and help them accomplish the task or cross the finish line. You won’t know the potential in people until you begin to believe they are capable of more.
3. Cast vision
It is so important to learn to cast vision to your team. Teams, consumers and even communities are more motivated by the why of your mission, than by the how. Casting vision not only defines the “win” but also explains what is expected or required of the team. Often team members need to know “is what I am doing making a difference?” or “what’s the goal?” As you cast vision, make your words “salty”, seasoned with respect and confidence. Don’t expect people to stay excited about the mission if you aren’t excited about the mission. Work hard on improving your own communication skills so that vision casting becomes an inherent part of your leadership style.
4. Take more risks
Risk taking yields great reward. Not only should you take more risks, but consider giving others an opportunity to do the same. Clearly define the measurable and objectives, but leave more room for the strategy and tactics. If everyone has to accomplish every task the same way that you do, then you’ve limited your team and destroyed the creative potential within others. Try giving others more permission; permission to draw their own conclusions, determine their own applications; and steward their own portion of the work. Create meaningful and collaborative learning experiences and release others into greater authority.
5. Allow for and forgive failure
When you entrust and empower people with more confidence and authority, you will also be communicating that they have permission to try again. Failure is not the end. It’s only an opportunity to begin again. Allow others the freedom to make mistakes and they will extend the same grace to you. Take time to debrief all along the way so that you can strategize adjustments for the future and encourage others to try again. Keep your focus on how you can improve and don’t hold a grudge.
6. Provide resources and encouragement
Give people as many tools, training and resources as you can in order to equip them for their responsibilities. Sometimes we approach our mission from an attitude of lack or stinginess, expecting others to “produce more bricks with less hay.” Turn that approach around and generously resource your team for maximum effectiveness. Don’t withhold what is needed to facilitate the vision.
7. Build community
Do you want to accomplish big goals? You’ll need a lot of human resource. Everyone has an innate desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Whether you are building a product, selling a service, or leading a life group, you can invite others into your circle of influence so that together you might see a greater return for your investment. This naturally requires human contact. Make more time for people. You can go fast and take along only a few people or you can slow down and take along thousands.
8. Prioritize people over results
I realize this advice is counter culture to most of America’s leadership environments, but when you value people over what they can do for you or with you, you build healthy relationships. When you legitimately care about the people “on the mission” with you, you will naturally build empowering, creative, loyal communities who work more effectively with less supervision. What seems contrary to accomplishing the goal, can actually accelerate the collaboration of team and increase positive outcomes from the bottom line to team loyalty.
9. Be patient
It’s what you do and how you respond when emotions are running high, that reveal if you are an emotionally mature leader. We tend to lean heavily on the intelligence of people (their talents and skills), but it’s our emotional maturity that can trip us up or cause us to break through. People are naturally chaotic. All of us are moving from lost to found and need more grace. Make room in your leadership style to accept people where they are while encouraging them to move toward greater maturity.
10. Take time to celebrate
Often we fail to stop and acknowledge the positive changes and impacts we are looking for. We simply rush to set the next milestone. This can result in discouragement to those who follow. Consider creative measures for recognizing great results. Give away the credit for success to others. Find a way to commemorate important achievements and build reward into your recognition. Public recognition for a job well done inspires the whole team to achieve with excellence and builds tremendous loyalty from the one who is recognized.
Having a team that is empowered and functioning well is the dream of every leader. It will take more than exceptional talent to create that team; it will require the sacrifice of a servant leader mixed with a strong dose of grace.
Are you willing to become an empowering leader?