To “empower” means to give someone the power to do something. This power is the authorization people need in order to carry out the work they have been assigned.
Through being a leader, I’ve learned that effectively empowering others means intentionally handing over five elements that legitimize the authorization someone has to do something. I call these five elements the “5 keys of empowering,” and they are the following:
1. Authority – to lead in the task.
2. Permission – to be original in the task.
3. Ability– to do the task well.
4. Opportunities – to go from less to more in the task.
5. Trust – to be faithful in the task.
If you are going to effectively empower others...
Give them authority as you put them in charge
To be empowered, people need to receive the legitimate power to exercise control over their task.
Empowering is assigning the task and putting others in charge to do the job.
Give them the leadership roles and responsibilities in the assigned task or area (of the team, of the church, of the institution).
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make … Matthew 28:18–20
As the leader, you cannot be in charge of everything because you can’t be everywhere at once. So, don’t limit the team (ministry, institution) just to where you can be present and when you alone can lead. When you delegate functions, and put others in charge, you are effectively expanding the borders and widening the reach of the team (ministry, institution).
Give others permission to be themselves.
Empowered people need to be granted permission to be and do within their assigned area according to how they understand their role as it relates to the mission, vision, and work of the team (ministry, institution).
Authority without the permission to be and do is not empowerment.
Other people will not do things exactly the way you do for the simple reason that they are different than you. But if you gave them authority, also give them permission to be original and to do things as they see fit. Don’t expect others to copy your way of being and of doing things.
"If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." 1 Corinthians 12:17–18
Empowering means giving others permission to be the best version of themselves while they do the job they’ve been assigned.
Now, empowered people represent the moral character and work ethic of the team (ministry, institution). If you don’t think that you can give them this level of permission because they won’t represent through their being and doing the character and nature of the team (ministry, institution), don’t give them authority. That is, don’t empower them.
Give ability by committing yourself to training and equipping others.
If we need to add permission to authority, we need to add ability to permission. Far from being passive, the act of empowering others is dynamic.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” Acts 1:8
Leaders empower when they are committed to the personal, ministerial, and professional growth of others.
It is highly likely that the people being empowered have the potential for the position and the job but that they need to grow and mature. Therefore, besides giving them permission, the one who empowers them must also commit to training and equipping them, at the same time that those being empowered demonstrate a commitment to be trained and equipped to carry out their tasks skillfully.
Empowering others is a journey of training and equipping in which the one empowering and the one being empowered are mutually committed to growing personally, professionally, and in the ministry.
Give opportunities that allow others to grow in maturity as they take on more responsibility.
Empowering people for responsible, mature action is a process of progressive experiences in which the ones being empowered take on more responsibility in proportion to their growth as people, as team members, and as leaders, whether in the spiritual, emotional, or professional dimensions.
When you put others in charge of a position or a task, be intentional about how you go about walking them from less to more responsibility, creating safe spaces for conversation, evaluation, and correction.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10
From the start, Jesus called his disciples to be apostles, but his journey with them took three years. During this time, he gave them orders and assigned tasks to lead them from temporal, circumstantial responsibilities—like preparing the multitude to receive the miracle of multiplication or going throughout the surrounding cities preaching the gospel of the kingdom—to the moment when he gave them the Great Commission and they assumed the responsibility of being used by God themselves to do miracles and to minister to multitudes, taking the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Empowering is also a process of giving others orders and tasks that create the opportunities to lead them from less to more in mature, responsible action as they lead and minister.
Give confidence by believing in others so that they have the self-confidence to do the job.
Empowering is a sure act of believing; it’s an action of hope in others, convinced that they will do the job they’ve been assigned, and do it well.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” 1 Timothy 1:12
Empowering is also a continuous act of confidence in others that requires us to communicate encouragement, energy, and emotional strength as we value them as people and recognize their qualities and abilities, as well as their importance (in the team, ministry, institution) in such a way that they grow in personal confidence to do the job.
Though we do things to please the Lord and not for the praise of others, it is also true that people need to have their emotional tanks full in order to feel confident about what they’re doing.
Develop (in the team, ministry, institution) a culture of honoring and celebrating others and what they do, even while they grow in maturity and ability regarding their work. Knowing that others trust us increases our own self-confidence, which in turn increases how effective we are in our work.
- How are you empowering others?
- Which of the 5 keys are you missing when you empower others?
- Which of the 5 keys is hardest for you to turn over when you empower others?
- How are you planning to use it for the time you empower others?
written by Daniel Prieto