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31 Aug '12

12 ways leaders disempower those they lead

Posted by T.J. Addington in organizational culture, unhealthy leaders
Here are twelve common ways that leaders can disempower those they lead. If you lead others, think about whether any of these apply to you. When leaders engage in these behaviors they lose the trust and confidence of those they lead. 

Don't delegate authority with responsibility
This is particularly disempowering when one is asked to do something but they do not have the authority to get it done. It is a no win situation for everyone involved and displays a lack of trust on the part of a supervisor.

Redoing what staff have done
Yes there are times when it is necessary to tweak what staff have done but a propensity to redo their work on a regular basis disempowers otherwise good staff. This includes situations where one is tasked to solve a problem and then the solution proposed is rejected.

Surprises that create consternation
None of us like surprises and when those surprises create extra work for staff it can be very discouraging. Especially if they could have been given a heads up earlier.

Dismissing ideas out of hand
Good leaders encourage innovation and new ideas. When they are dismissed out of hand, however, they send a strong signal that they are not wanted.

Declare rather than dialogue
None of us like to simply be told what to do. We desire a voice in a decision if it impacts us. In general, declarations disempower while dialogue empowers.

Take credit rather than giving it away
This is one of the most toxic things a leader can do when the credit really belongs to others on the team. It is a sign of narcissism and devalues those who made something happen.

Talk rather than listen
Anytime a leader speaks more than they listen one has a disempowering leader. They are not interested in what others have to say but what they have to tell. 

Don't give equal regard to men and women
Unfortunately this remains an issue in the Christian world. Unequal treatment of men and women is wrong and it disempowers women.

Lack of equal treatment and fairness
When leaders give preferential treatment to someone others take note of the disparity. It is a lack of fairness which disempowers others on the team.

Using the God card
Christian leaders who use the God card - "God told me to do this" - leave others with nowhere to go in dialogue, especially if they have questions of the wisdom of the decision. How do you argue with God?

Double standards
This especially applies to leaders who live and work one way but expect their team to live an work another way. Leaders cannot ask their staff to go where they are not willing to go.

Don't keep them challenged
I commonly find staff who are under challenged and under utilized but their leader has never even asked so they don't know. Not being challenged in one's role carries with it serious disempowerment.