My Most Life Opening Leadership Lesson of 2011

Leadership Lesson: Empowerment must come from withinWith only two Tuesdays left in 2011, and thus only two more editions of Leadership Chat on Twitter this year, Steve Woodruff and I have chosen to focus tomorrow night’s Chat on looking back at leadership lessons of 2011, and next Tuesday’s on looking forward to our vision for leadership in 2012.

As someone who obviously loves to reflect and ponder at every opportunity, I made a cup of South African tea and sat down by my fireplace anticipating a thoughtful hour spent thinking about what I’d write about when it came to my own most impactful leadership lesson of 2011. Of course, the answer came to me before I’d barely had time to sit: it’s all about empowerment.

Empowerment in Leadership

When I think about empowerment in leadership I equate it to a leader “handing over the keys” to a very valuable car to an individual. To do this takes trust, confidence, a firm belief that the person to whom the keys are being given has the skills necessary to drive the car, and an inner knowing that the person has the same set of values and will respect and take care of the car unequivocally.

When a leader in the business world “hands over the keys” to a project, initiative, business, or team to an individual they are empowering that person through the expression of faith – not in a religious sense - but in a very basic, human fashion. To give power to another person takes real courage, we all know this. I believe this is part of the reason that it is somewhat rare to see real empowerment happen in the business world.

But there is another reason real empowerment can be elusive…and it’s the most eye-opening leadership lesson I learned this year…

The Well-spring of Empowerment

Empowerment must come from within. The source of real empowerment is our inner self, the place where we deem ourselves worthy to be powerful, to trust and be trusted, and to be confidently vulnerable. Because ultimately, when we empower others – when we trust others with power – we put ourselves in a vulnerable position. After all, they might let us down.

They might crash the car, they might not take care of it properly, or they simply might not get to where we want them to go.

Many leaders are uncomfortable with being vulnerable – they see it as a weakness rather than a source of strength and part of the circle of empowerment.

So what’s the secret? Empowering without giving away your own power.

When your own source of empowerment comes from within – and does not rely on the good grace of others to hand you the keys – then you are constantly in a state of personal power.  It’s much easier to hand the keys to others when you know you have a constant source of power within you from which to draw upon!

In 2011 I have become a woman empowered by love, power and wisdom, enriched by my knowing, guided by my intuition and supported by my divinity. Empowerment is going to be a tremendous focus for me in 2012…all because of the lesson I learned in 2011!

What was your most eye-opening leadership lesson of 2011, and how will it impact your 2012?

Please share with us at #LeadershipChat on Twitter Tuesday night, December 20th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. We look forward to seeing you there and learning from you!

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