BT

New Early adopter or innovator? InfoQ has been working on some new features for you. Learn more

Leadership Fit for the 21st Century: Empowering People is Impossible

| by Ben Linders Follow 9 Followers on Feb 18, 2016. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

This second post in the series on leadership fit for the 21st century covers the talk given by Jenni Jepsen from goAgile at the evening seminar on leadership fit for the 21st century about why empowering people is impossible.

Jepsen started by questioning the audience whether you should wait for somebody to empower you, of if somebody can empower someone else. We cannot empower people, but we can work to create an organization where people feel empowered, said Jepsen.

For giving control to people, you have to assure that they have technical competence and that the organization in which they are working provides clarity. The thing is, leaders need to give some control to find out where the gaps are. Earlier InfoQ did a Q&A with her about making people feel empowered with intent-based leadership in which she explained how this works:

If people have the competencies needed and the understanding of the goals, they should then also have the decision making power. When we give control to people who have the competence and clarity, we create an environment where great things happen.

Jepsen mentioned things that can get in the way of giving control by agile leaders:

  • Busy-ness
  • Contradictory messages in the environment, which prevent people from taking responsibility
  • Policies and procedures people feel that they "have to" follow
  • Stress, which forces people to think more black and white
  • Old habits; people are wired to stay in habit mode which takes less energy

In the InfoQ article the neuroscience of agile leadership Jepsen explained how people are wired to maximize reward and minimize danger.

Creating new habits starts with deciding to do something differently. Jepsen suggested to choose only one thing to do, and pay attention to doing it. It is one of the principles of Intent-based Leadership: "act your way to new thinking". To make the new habit stick, you need to feel good about the results of the change, get positive feedback and feel rewarded, and keep doing it over and over again.

It is up to Agile leaders to create an environment where people feel empowered, said Jepsen. She suggested to look for physical evidence that people feel empowered: what language do people use, for example, are they asking for permission or telling you what they intend to do? Are people smiling and talking together? Are backlogs visible to everyone? Do people take responsibility without waiting for someone else to do something?

Jepsen presented a nudge, a kind of mini experiment that she did with the audience to "act your way to new thinking". She asked the attendees to come up with one thing that they would like to improve about themselves, and then to discuss in groups of two why they would want to work on this. Next, she asked the people in the groups to brainstorm about specific things, actions that each person could do, and take those ideas back home and start doing them. Breaking down new behaviours into very small, specific actions is the way to make change successful.

And, for many organizations, creating an environment where people feel empowered is a big change. The things that get in the way of making this happen are common. Understanding that and making small changes to support people feeling empowered, as well as looking for the evidence that it is working are key.

The first post in this series on leadership fit for the 21st century titled Challenges in an Agile Environment covers the talk given by Hendrik Pothof and Michael Bres about leadership challenges in an agile environment.

Rate this Article

Adoption Stage
Style

Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Tell us what you think

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

Leadership by Steve Macias

Leadership is not an attitude that we develop in our personality overnight. therefore, we are looking for several kinds of empowerment opportunities to develop our leadership skills and attitude. without any kind of empowerment and inspiration, we are unable to improve our skills, therefore, we need strong motivation and skills to improve our leadership attitude. Thanks for this wonderful article from which we learn some basic tips regarding leadership attitude.
www.reginafasold.com/blog/developing-a-personal...

Re: Leadership by Jenni Jepsen

Thanks so much for your comment, Steve. Yes, feeling empowered is the result of increasing intrinsic motivation, and then combined with inspiration... WOW! That is when learning, growth, creativity and innovation happen. The world needs leaders who understand this and can live it each day, now, perhaps, more than ever.

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

2 Discuss

Login to InfoQ to interact with what matters most to you.


Recover your password...

Follow

Follow your favorite topics and editors

Quick overview of most important highlights in the industry and on the site.

Like

More signal, less noise

Build your own feed by choosing topics you want to read about and editors you want to hear from.

Notifications

Stay up-to-date

Set up your notifications and don't miss out on content that matters to you

BT