I got called out for saying I could “empower” someone at work. “You can create the conditions to enable someone’s potential, but you can’t give them your power,” I was reminded.
I wasn’t trying to diminish the state they were starting from, but the critique made me think hard about the perceptions from outside my perspective.
Our goal, especially in organizations with expressed (and unexpressed) hierarchies, is to be both clinically specific and directionally poetic.
Clinically specific includes setting who has what roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
Directionally poetic includes the passion and belief we have in the people doing the work and the meaning of the outcome.
Clinically specific is important. But if you ignore directionally poetic, you might be politically correct, but you’ll also be boring, uninspired, or something worse.
Instead of saying someone is empowered to get a task done, we can invite them to take whatever steps necessary to complete the task, let them know we have their back if they run into any obstacles, and celebrate the higher purpose its completion involves.
Leadership is about the conditions we create, having people who will follow us on our path forward, and regularly reassessing the perspectives of everyone at every level of our group.