Superman is Dead. Superwoman is Retired. Stop trying to do everything. —  May 7, 2013

One of the greatest temptations of a leader is to do, and neglect empowering. An old saying describes many leaders: If you want it done right, do it yourself.  One of the best known examples in the  Bible is Moses. After a morning of observation, his father in law had a talk with him about his work habits. (I’m sure he loved that!) He tells Moses:

Exodus 18:17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

Here are three principles on the benefits of empowering others:

1. Empowerment is not delegation. One of the most frustrating feelings a follower can have, is to have responsibility without authority.  Delegation merely says, “here, do this”. Empowerment gives the assignment, the instructions and the power to change, adapt and improve it. It takes longer, but in the end, its results are better.  I once sat in a church, waiting for the service to start. The pastor was sitting next to me in a back room. People would continually stream in, and ask the pastor a myriad of questions, from water level in the baptistery, parking, and service participants. It was obvious the pastor felt good about everything having to run through him. I only wondered what would happen if the pastor, like Christopher Reeve (superman) fell of a horse and had to be out for an extended period of time.

2. Empowerment creates ownership. The easiest way, one that both leaders and many followers prefer, is for the leader to give a list of assignments. We love to-do lists. What should I do? What decision should I make?  What would you do in my place? An important part of empowerment is to ask good questions. When we ask questions instead of just giving advice, we teach people to think for themselves, empowering them. Pastors especially, find it very tempting to spend their lives giving advice, which is faster, than to let people reflect on the choices, and process information for themselves.

3. Empowerment leaves a legacy. Because our ego is involved in most everything we do, it feels good when we are absent from our responsibility and people tell us how terrible it was when we were gone. An empowering leader, is one that will leave a post and things won’t fall apart. This means, that sometimes things have to go terribly wrong, in order for people to step up and rectify. When a leader continually steps in and takes upon himself/herself responsibilities, instead of empowering followers, the end product will always be mediocre. If you continually step in, your people will never grow. I see pastors opening the doors of the church, getting the heat going, working the sound system, etc. Nothing wrong with doing that, but I am pretty sure other people can be a part of the team and grow into their assignment, instead of you doing everything yourself.

There are no super heroes, with super powers. Just empowering leaders, who bring the best in others, and help them go further than even they thought was possible.

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