Leadership is a buzz word. My view on leadership is highly influenced by Reuel Khoza’s speech titled “Education for empowerment”. I would be right to insinuate that the notion of empowerment lacks a definitive definition.
According to Oxford dictionary, making someone stronger and more confident are some of the characteristics of empowerment. Leadership for empowerment puts more emphasis on those being led and not leaders. Leaders are the ones who ensure that those they lead are made strong and more confident.
Those who are being led usually retain low confidence if they are given meaningless tasks to execute. They would feel weak if credit for their best work is taken by their leaders.
Leadership for empowerment demands leaders to trust those they lead even when the stakes are high. This is not to imply that subordinates should be thrown into the deep end to drown, but rather demands a systematic approach of grooming them – one task at a time.
When leadership is not for empowerment, then organisations are short lived. Those organisations would be one dimensional; they revolve around the leader thus exposing the organisation to the leader’s blind spots.
Leadership for empowerment demands that leaders invest in their teams. Arguably, subordinates make important decisions without their leader’s inputs, moving the spotlight away from the leader to the team. The team should be comprised of talented individuals of course. The Spanish national football team dominated the international football stage in recent years – thanks to a solid team. It is not only about the best individual talent, but how they complement each other to make the whole best.
It is about creating an environment for the best talent to flourish. Being in a flourishing prone environment not only exposes the team’s strengths but their weaknesses too, which in turn helps to address skills gap of the team. This allows individuals to develop relevant skills for the team to be competitive. It is futile to practice for a football game where the midfielder takes on the role of a goal keeper. A leader who is aware of his team’s capabilities is able to effectively utilise them, contributing to the overall success of the organisation.
Leadership for empowerment is about the future. It is about succession planning, implementation and believing in the team at all times.
Founders are faced with the challenge of loving their ideas too much. They find it hard to build solid teams to grow their businesses. Start-ups remain start-ups for many years. Through the lenses of leadership for empowerment, the founder understands that it is through a team that an idea is turned into a profitable business. A team is not limited to only sitting around the table, thanks to technology – virtual teams are an option.
To be successful in running organisations, leadership should be more of empowerment than many other intentions.
Rendani Mamphiswana is the founder and president of Takalani Foundation. He is an assistant technology manager, currently studying towards Master’s in Engineering (Technology Management) with the University of Pretoria, South Africa. As an up-and-coming writer, he wrote this article in his personal capacity.