Empowerment: What Does It Really Mean?

Do you feel empowered?

Empowerment is considered one of the most popular development and management concepts of our time. Institutions ranging from large development organizations to small businesses have been initiating empowerment programs in attempts to enhance motivation, improve efficiency, increase profit or bring about human development. [1]

Empowerment is defined by the World Bank as “the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices … (that lead) to desired actions and outcomes.” At Compassion, discussions on the concept of empowerment are not new. But in practice, I wonder how evident empowerment is in our management behavior.

group of men and women posing for a photo

I believe that Jesus and Paul used the principle of empowerment in dealing with the disciples and other church leaders. Read John 15:15, Luke 10:1-20, 2 Timothy 2:2 and Philemon 1:10-14.

But how does that apply to us today? What does it mean to be empowered?

As a leader, how do you know whether your leadership style is empowering?

Three specific areas of practice may help you answer these questions:

  • Information

    Without information that is relevant, timely, and presented in forms that can be understood, it is impossible for people to take effective action.

    Do you have access to the necessary information to do your job? Do you share important information with your coworkers for them to do their jobs?

  • Participation and Decision

    An empowering approach to participation treats people (staff, partners, etc.) as co-owners of processes and results, each with appropriate authority over decisions and resources.

    Do you really have a voice on decisions affecting your department or company?

  • Collaboration Capacity

    This refers to the ability of people to work together, organize themselves, and mobilize resources to solve problems of common interest.

    How free are you to mobilize resources and work outside of the formal chain of command to look for solutions to problems?

1. Potterfield, Thomas, “The Business of Employee Empowerment: Democracy and Ideology in the Workplace,” Quorum Books, 1999.

1 Comment |Add a comment

  1. Bongole Patrick September 10, 2011

    The term “Empowerment” captures a lot of meaning and compacts it together. A lay man’s view would be lifting up the helpless to realize strength from their helplessness, and thereby be able to stand on their own the next day. Empowerment comes from within. Jesus is our source to empower us internally to take on the same task to ignite other people’s lives. It takes a Christ-like Character be able to fully empower others

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