If you have ever had a boss who allowed you the freedom to truly learn and grow, you know how invigorating that can be. It is a pleasure to work for a leader who fosters an environment that empowers others. Conversely, there are few things more stifling than working for someone who squelches personal growth.

If you want to become a successful leader, it is essential to learn how to empower others.

Theodore Roosevelt lived this principal in the way he led as a successful general and as President of the US. He was quoted as saying that, “The best executive is one who has the sense to pick good [people] to do what he wants done and enough self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

Another way of illustrating this principal is that a leader needs to create the space that followers can grow into. Without space to grow, it is difficult for potential leaders to actually grow. An overly tight management style does not provide the space for talented people to try the new things that are necessary for them to grow to their potential.

When a leader can’t or won’t empower others, he limits the potential of the individuals in the organization. Leaders who refuse (or don’t know how) to empower people will result in an environment where people simply cannot reach their potential.

Such leaders also create an organization that is limited in its ability to grow and accept new challenges successfully. Unwittingly, leaders who do not empower others pave the path to an organization where people give up on personal growth. Consequently, the more talented people move on to more successful organizations where their personal growth is not only accommodated, but encouraged.

There are several keys to being a leader who empowers people:

  1. Select talented and motivated people to be on the team.
  2. Make sure that the people you select believe in the mission and are committed to the cause.
  3. Support the people you select with others on the team. This means letting the people that are being led know that you believe in the skills of your leaders.
  4. From time to time, you will need to correct your leaders. Always do this in private. Never devalue one of your leaders, or anyone on the team, by criticizing them publicly.
  5. In the same way, it goes without saying that you should never speak ill of anyone’s performance when they are not present. If someone on the team complains about one of your leaders, thank them for their feedback, but do not indicate that you agree with their point of view. Then talk to your leader, privately, about the situation the next time you see them.
  6. Sing your people’s praises to others on the team. It is important to praise everyone on the team for doing well, but is it is especially important to publicly acknowledge the good work of your team leaders.
  7. Look for opportunities to stretch and grow your leaders. Think of new situations and opportunities that you can involve them in. Show them that you trust them by providing them with opportunities to learn and to demonstrate new skills.
  8. At the same time, monitor your leaders’ performance and make sure that you are close enough to the situation to help them if needed when they are doing something new. Empowering people does not mean abandoning them. It means providing them space to grow while encouraging them and supporting them throughout the entire process.

To be a leader who empowers people, you must believe in your people. You also must invest your time in teaching them how to also become a leader. You must monitor their performance but continuously encourage them, especially when they stumble or fail.

Empowering people and developing leaders takes time and commitment. It requires energy and patience. Sometimes it may be necessary to wait a bit for your employee to do something that you could have done more quickly. However, the long-term reward is that you will strengthen your organization, and create a more powerful and effective organization, because of the depth of leadership within the organization.