In a healthier version empowerment appears as a combination of permission and measurement.
Permitting the action and measuring the outcome for management.

In the traditional model, the possessor of the power strives for ongoing control yet concedes the need for extra help and so must release enough permission to let someone else in, purely for the sake of output. This path crushes the soul of the contributor and (with every control) reminds them that their exclusive value is in their productivity.
That’s not empowerment, that’s slavery with a paycheck, and in the case of a volunteer even the payment reward is removed. There is no sustainability here.

Lasting Empowerment

Another more individually affirming and lasting approach to empowerment would be to ‘release from the inside out’ instead of ‘control from the outside in’. 
Empowerment that leads to lasting productivity can only come from people who are enthusiastic, skilled and have an internal desire for productivity in the area concerned.

This places the emphasis on the leaders to find the people with some passion and some skill first, before releasing the permission or empowering. That will allow the controls to be far less restrictive, and the space for creativity to open up, without stressing the leader. It engages the one being empowered and keeps them personally motivated, and relieves the Leader from enforcing punitive controls.

Empowerment is collaboration. So if partnering at some level is necessary, then do it with someone whose capability is established and whose skill & passion will relieve you of your controls. Keep the measurements though, that’s just good management.

Two questions then:

  • Are you approaching empowerment with an ‘outside in’ control?
  • What system is in place to help you find Talent to empower?