Leadership and Management: It’s Time to Teach Empowerment
Management was the role that imposed the discipline and managed the process. Managers were taught to think like this. And the only model they had until they started work was the education system — and previously it was about the authority.
We live in a world in which employees are expecting to be influenced, motivated, and enabled to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of a common goal. We often call this leadership.
I think our current issues of enabling future leaders versus managers goes back to education as designed for the Ford assembly-line system and the industrial age. We often still teach one subject at a time, one class following another, one teacher lecturing many students.
Remember, I’m French! I like a little process, or else it’s chaos, but sometimes, sometimes you just have to let people go so they can explore.
Do students really need that level of authority? Do the students need a manager to tell them what to do? Do they really need detailed instructions for everything? When there is a project, there is a beginning and an end, and a lot of stuff that goes in between that is about negotiating your way toward a goal. Especially if it’s something new. How do you manage to do a project that nobody has done before?
I’m not sure that a person who is managing and leading you is the person who has to manage the process. If you are building a house with a plan and certain entry ways, think about the leader as the one who creates the context for people who need to do the details. She says, here’s the budget and the general idea, but all of you, architects and builders and craftspeople, go do what you do best within these guidelines. They create a creative community in the moment and the leader helps that community come together. Yes, you have to have people who know how to hang cabinets, and a vision to align with; they could hang the mismatched cabinets on-time and within budget, and they could be good managers, but they wouldn’t be helping create something wonderful–they would just be following a disconnected process.
In France and more Latin cultures, there is not as much process as I find in the US. People just think. They do what they think is the right thing. Too often people fall back on the process and say I failed because it wasn’t in the process. I say, just think. Empower people and let them do what needs to be done. People need to think critically, fail and learn from those failures. Just think and you might succeed at the first trial, or you can fail and learn and try it again! You don’t need process for everything.
If we go back to education, you have to start with thinking and empowerment at a very young age. If you empower someone trapped by process thinking, they won’t know what to do. They were raised with rules and instructions, limits and constraints, and they can’t just be empowered out of that. We have to help educate people on how to be empowered. I don’t think a manager can do that, only a leader can create the environment that supports empowerment.