Organizational Consultation XXIII: Empowerment (Part Three)
Second, the approach presented in these essays recognizes the multiple leadership roles that make a group effective and empowered. Everyone can be a leader in certain areas of group functioning, at a certain time and in a certain place. Andy Warhol once suggested that each of us are famous for fifteen minutes. While this may be a bit of an overstatement mixed with profound cynicism, it is possible, from an appreciative perspective, for each member of a group to find herself in a leadership role at some point in the group’s life. The group members have only to acknowledge this leadership role and to allow it to emerge and be honored by the group. As Cynthia Scott and Dennis Jaffe (1991, p. 32) propose:[
In the empowered work team, everyone has the responsibility that was traditionally given the leader. If anyone sees a problem or has an idea, they are responsible for bringing it to the group. The idea must be respected, and everyone should be engaged in looking for ways to grow and develop. It’s not enough for just the [the people in formal leadership roles] to do this.
Third, an appreciative approach to empowerment recognizes not just the multiple leadership roles in the group but also the many other contributions to be made by group members. As Ken Blanchard and his colleagues (1999, p. 6) suggest: “The real essence of empowerment comes from releasing the knowledge, experience, and motivational power that is already in people but is being severely underutilized.” In recent years, we have come to recognize that people possess “multiple intelligences” and that these many different competencies are often unacknowledged in our society (Gardner, 1993, 2000) One of these forms of intelligence, often called emotional intelligence, has been acknowledged as particularly important in all organizational settings and, in particular, in group settings (Goleman, 1995). Members of a group must be appreciated for all of the talents “they bring to the party,” not just those that are most visible and commonly honored in our society, such as technical and analytic skills, decisiveness, and perseverance.
Fourth, an appreciative approach is embedded in the emphasis being placed in this series of essays on not just generating ideas but also moving these ideas to action. Empowered groups are always leaning into the future and seeking ways to translate items of discussion and dialogue into steps toward realization of clearly articulated intentions, based on shared information. Effective empowerment means business. Empowered employees who are appreciated by their organization are expected to influence their own individual future and the collective future of their organization. As a result, appreciative empowerment tends to add pressure to group members rather than reduce pressure. As Blanchard and his associates (1999, p. 6) have noted: “Leaders who empower people are placing additional responsibilities for results on the team members. That is right: empowerment is not soft management. But even though it places high expectations on people, team members embrace empowerment because it leads to the joys of involvement, ownership and growth.”