(5 mins read)

A few years ago my company moved me to a new geography and team. During my first week, I was meeting people, asking questions and trying to understand what the culture is like. At the end of the first week, one particular element attracted my attention: too much leadership is at the top. I called it a ZEZ … “ZERO EMPOWERMENT ZONE”. Everything was centralised and my new position was a command centre. A place where each (!) decision was made. Anybody in my new team was set up and interested in taking accountability and responsibility. You can imagine that a leader was a bottle neck in each decision process. Decisions were delayed and very slow. In many cases there was no decision at all as it was impossible for one person to decide on behalf of a team of ten people. In many cases, the decisions made were wrong, since the decision market was not close to the problem; and did not have all the information nor an understanding of the situation. It was a beautiful recipe for a leader-and-team disaster. 


If you want to drive empowerment and to turn followers into leaders you need to check if YOU are ready for it first. A change process will be long and painful, requiring time spent on listening, getting feedback and being coached. It is more like a long-term investment. After all, you are going to change people’s behaviours and introduce a new culture. This requires time and effort. Are you ready for it? Other key elements are your vision, desire and expectations. Are you clear about all those elements? Are you ready to take a bird’s-eye view and stay there? No micro-management anymore? You need to have answers to these questions long before you start a change journey before you do a first step. And finally, you need to be a role model. A successful change process is fully dependent on you remaining consistent, being a role model and expressing the right behaviours even if it means more time on discussions, clarifications, answering questions or coaching.


When you are clear on why, what, how, when, with whom, you then need to communicate it. Do not do this on individual basis. Organise a meeting or a call with every team member to share your vision. Explain to people WHY everyone needs to change their ways of working. Why today, and what are the benefits of doing so. Communicate your expectations on their role in case of leadership, decision taking and involvement; and be careful to clarify any and all details and questions. Be clear and precise. From the beginning, drive the change by promoting new behaviours and ensure that they buy in and that they act as leaders. Involve them in a decision-making process. Do not carry them through it, but introduce the change in such a way that every person in your team owns it and takes responsibility for it. 


Managing the change on an individual level is the most critical and difficult stage in the change process. After you communicate your vision and expectations during a team meeting, you need to connect with every single individual and repeat it one more time. During a team meeting you would usually get confirmation that people do understand. During individual meetings all team members will be able to ask questions they did not want to ask during team call. Check how they understood it and how you can help them to drive the change and to implement new behaviours. Discuss and agree with them on expectations and deliverables, contract with them! From now on your role will be helping them in analysing situations or problems and supporting them in finding optimal solutions. From now on you need to be available to them. Do not leave them alone with new expectations and unknown territory. Stay close to them every day. In some cases it will click from the beginning and there will be individuals enjoying new ways of working immediately. However, there will be cases where the change will take weeks or months. Be patient, consistent and supportive.

All individuals know their areas of responsibility the best. They stay close to problems and challenges and do well to understand them. Empowerment will help them to do what needs to be done, in turn ensuring the highest quality of leadership and decisions.

Coaching will be critical during all your interactions with individuals. Do not serve ready-made solutions – do not solve problem they face – but promote empowerment and help each person to become a leader.


Once the change is initiated and all team members start a process of entering a FEM … “FULL EMPOWERMENT MODE” continue promoting new ways of working. Reward publicly the right behaviours which you seek, decisions made and personal initiatives. Ensure that discussion and your feedback in relation to empowerment and driving empowerment across all levels is covered during performance reviews as well.

The above four simple steps will help you to introduce new culture of empowerment and leadership. With your support and leadership, each member of your team will develop and quickly adjust to new expectations.

In case of vacancy or a new position in your team, pay specific attention to recruitment and select a person who will fit the desired culture from the beginning. Look for people who are able to ask questions and to challenge the status quo. Search for risk takers who will never give up, and who are able to identify problems and then solve them. These are the attributes of a leader. 

Once you change leadership, behaviours and ways of working, you need to review another critical element – policies and procedures. They need to reflect the new culture and promotion of empowerment across the firm. Procedures cannot contradict the new ways of working because it will confuse all individuals and create chaos.

EMPOWERMENT is critical and it will help you in turning followers into leaders!


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