By Luke Lingle
Kryptonite is an alien mineral that has the property of depriving Superman of his power. It is a fluorescent green stone that is usually used against superman in a solid form, and the radiation from the crystalline rock causes sickness and ultimate weakness. One of the most difficult things about Kryptonite is its potency; however, because it is such a distinct mineral it is obvious when you encounter the substance.
This week we are talking about empowerment. Empowerment is a leadership style and a way of working as a leader that asks a leader to recognize the power of individuals being led or shift power from a person leading to a person being led. At a base level a leader that is an empowering leader recognizes and celebrates the power and ability that resides in all people. Leaders that empower well help those whom they are leading to realize potential that exists within themselves; potential that is honed through growth and development. As leaders we have the opportunity to support the people we lead to also become leaders.
Empowerment is recognizing that, at times, a leader has power in a situation that needs to be transferred to a person being led. The transfer of power from one person to another is the essence of empowerment. This transfer can be difficult and even messy, but is necessary; otherwise, the person being led does not have the power that is possessed by the leader. Empowerment is work that takes time, a willing leader, and an incredible amount of communication. If done well empowerment is a decentering practice that spreads power over an entire group or organization and makes the whole more powerful.
While giving permission is a part of life, I have come to believe that permission-giving is the kryptonite of empowerment. Stay will me, when I give my children permission to watch a show or play a game on the iPad, I still possess all the power over when they can turn it off or how long they can participate in the activity. When I empower my children they learn to determine what is an appropriate amount of time to watch a show or play a game and have the power to decide when they will stop. In the same way when a leader gives permission to a person being led then the leader retains all of the power. In permission-giving power is not transferred, rather, power is retained by the leader and the person being led is not empowered. Permission-giving may be necessary sometimes, however, it can be the kryptonite of empowerment. Will we as leaders take the time to recognize the innate power of the people we lead and support that power?
The grace of community seeks to empower the whole community to work, think, serve, receive, and lead. While permission-giving might seem efficient, empowerment allows the wisdom embodied in the whole of the community to arise. But it is slow, messy, relational work which asks leaders to encourage the natural talents and abilities of the community’s members and support them even when it means that they have to share power.