How does empowerment change leadership style

Empowerment: definition, concept, example

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Over the years, what customers expect from companies has changed. Everything has become faster and so customers expect quick solutions to their problem. Nevertheless, they sometimes have to fight their way through various instances. Empowerment is a way for companies to meet today's demands. Because even today companies and authorities are far too rigid to be able to react flexibly. The hierarchy structures that still prevail in many companies often make it difficult to respond adequately and, above all, promptly. What empowerment means and how it can help ...

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Empowerment definition: what does it mean?

The English term empowerment literally means something like Authorization, authorization. In a broader sense, empowerment includes the transfer of responsibility.

The empowerment concept originally comes from education. The Brazilian educator Paulo Freire describes it in his work "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". It was further developed in American community psychology, and the social scientist Julian Rappaport is also attributed significant influence.

Different areas deal with empowerment:

  • Empowerment in psychosocial practice: The point here is to encourage the individual to live self-determined and autonomously. The focus is on encouragement and the use of existing potential to support people in shaping their lives. It is about self-empowerment, as it is used, for example, in social work with the elderly, the disabled or those with mental illnesses. A central point is the dismantling of hierarchies by creating democratic structures.
  • Empowerment in companies: In the corporate context, empowerment means that responsibility is transferred bit by bit from the superiors to the employees using various methods, so that their opportunities for co-determination and autonomy increase. This leads to the dismantling of hierarchies and thus a democratization of the company. The reduced bureaucracy also helps to optimize performance and promotes employee motivation.

To put it simply, empowerment means that the role of the employee changes towards more design: Before that, employees usually have one mostly passive role taken, as they were more of the recipients of orders. Now an active involvement in the company begins, which promotes new opportunities for one's own career development.

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Empowerment leadership: more democracy in companies

Although the Anglicism with a number of other terms such as coaching only in the last twenty years is used more often, the idea behind it is not that new.

As early as the twenties of the last century, various studies were carried out in the Western Electric plant in Hawthorne in the United States as Hawthorne experiments known. Scientists made the observation that the productivity of employees can be increased in a targeted manner if they are more involved.

In the seventies and eighties, the idea of ​​the empowerment concept in the form of participatory leadership found its way into companies. Now there were employee interviews in which target agreements were made.

Ideas for further education and training of employees have also opened up completely new perspectives for participation and led to new opportunities for advancement. All of these are components of empowerment.

The importance of empowerment

If these democratization efforts in companies have been around for so long, one might ask why empowerment still needs to be emphasized so much? What's really new about this idea? First and foremost, it's them changed framework conditions in the 21st century.

However, many companies are still organized hierarchically: The management has the power and responsibility, the employees in the lower hierarchical levels carry out the instructions. Even if an employee notices something that the Workflow obstructed, he can usually not turn to the top position with decision-making authority, but must choose the detour via the next superior.

In this way, ideas sometimes fizzle out on the way "upwards", problems are not even recognized or belittled. External are also strong hierarchical structures are a hindrance. But it's not just about a more democratic form of personnel management.

Rather, there is a high pressure to change; more complex work processes and work intensification require rethinking conventional leadership.

Customer and service orientation used to be more of an expression of one strategic consideration how to maximize profits in service companies. Entire industries are now dependent on it: The age of the internet makes it possible for dissatisfied customers to order products even in the smallest of villages if they are dissatisfied with offers from local companies.

The problem: Entrepreneurial thinking, identification with the company and customer orientation must be part of the employee's own drive. They cannot simply be prescribed. To promote this is that Task of empowerment.

Empowerment example

Examples from the corporate context are the opportunities for co-determination that companies such as the automotive group Toyota give their employees. As part of the Kaizen philosophy, a continuous improvement process is initiated by the fact that employees, through their suggestions for improvement, the Optimize production and thus improve performance.

The American hotel chain Ritz-Carlton also operates empowerment. In practice this means that every hotel employee - including the housekeeping staff - has up to one Sum of $ 2,000 be allowed to make decisions on their own initiative.

Empowerment concept: this is how it is implemented

To empowerment as Part of the corporate culture To establish this successfully, the following four action concepts are required:

  • Improved flow of information

    The willingness to take responsibility can only be implemented if the employees have access to all information. These are necessary in order to be able to make well-considered decisions. At the same time, mutual trust is fostered when everyone has the same information. Knowledge of the company's strategy is important, as well as profit, market share, productivity, competition and the like. Only when this knowledge is available does the understanding of certain challenges grow and one's own actions can be adjusted accordingly.

  • More powers

    First and foremost, employees have greater scope for action and decision-making. Those who are not allowed to take any responsibility cannot contribute. This requires a corresponding relationship of trust between the supervisor and his employee. Empowerment only works if the boss is convinced of the abilities and can assess them correctly. This also includes an employee who is ready to take on responsibility and who demonstrates through his or her self-management that he is up to the task.

  • Higher skill

    Another elementary point in empowerment is that, in addition to their basic knowledge, employees are also empowered to fill in the new skills. It is about qualification in the form of advanced and advanced training. At this point, however, empowerment should also be understood in an educational sense, that employees are encouraged to make decisions by taking away their fear of doing so.

  • Stronger motivation

    However, the following point should not be neglected: The personal requirements of the employee. Not everyone is unreservedly ready to take on more responsibility. This does not only depend on the professional qualifications, but often also on the personality. Not everyone has the necessary self-esteem to trust themselves to be more independent. Here empowerment is meant in the sense of reinforcement. The manager's knowledge of human nature and social skills are required when it comes to relieving his employees of possible fears.

Empowerment in practice: not always easy

If the positive aspects of empowerment have been observed for decades and the changed conditions lead to hierarchies being dismantled, the question arises why empowerment despite obvious advantages is not introduced.

In some cases, the plans to establish empowerment in practice fail personal vanities. Those who, as the top boss, decide to cede power to their employees may pursue a different goal than superiors, who are below them in the hierarchy but above other employees.

Empowerment means from the own power to give something and distribute it to the subordinates. However, this is not that easy - some managers may then feel powerless in the truest sense of the word. From a psychological point of view, power and status are one of the main drivers of motivation alongside money.

In other words: Will empowerment of employees as Loss of power of the manager perceived, this may lead to the manager's demotivation. At the same time, the fear of losing control often increases.

Empowerment thus guides a form of personal change management because all employees have to deal with their new roles. For the employees this means that they have to learn to organize themselves more strongly and to make decisions independently.

The managers, in turn, have to learn to let go. This will not be easy, especially in the initial phase, because mistakes will of course happen. Superiors have to exercise patience and serenity here, and under certain circumstances also lower the (too high) demands a little.

One is important for this good error culture. Employees have to trust themselves to make mistakes because they can trust that their heads will not be ripped off at the first opportunity. However, if there is a suspicion that unnecessary errors are happening, they can be brought under control with targeted error management.

Either way empowerment is a process. If the authoritarian leadership style was previously applied in a company, one cannot expect miracles overnight.

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