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Leadership and Employee Empowerment. Critical Leadership Skills Needed.
Created on 2018-05-29 05:16
Published on 2018-05-29 05:27
Do you as a leader wonder – what really are the critical leadership skills needed to support a culture of employee empowerment? Organisations need a ‘Specialist Leader’ with skills fit for the purpose of empowering employees and not a ‘generalist leader’.
An important organisational strategy, such as employee empowerment, cannot be successful without proper leadership. But, a question often overlooked is, what are the critical ‘Specialist Leadership’ skills needed to bring about and support and nurture a culture of employee empowerment in organisations? The interviews of my research revealed some of the skills that are essential to leadership in an empowered organisation.
Employee Empowerment is increasingly being recognised as an important organisational strategy and organisations are attempting to implement it. But, there are problems and complexities that surround employee empowerment which is often neglected and not addressed by organisations.
Firstly, there is a lack of knowledge with regards to what employee empowerment means. The absence of knowledge creates misunderstanding and employee empowerment s being misunderstood with other management practices, such as employee involvement, employee engagement or employee participation. Employee empowerment is none of these aforementioned practices.
Secondly, there a lack of a model or framework for implementing employee empowerment, hence, organisations do not know what model or framework to use for implementing it, this creates inconsistency and misunderstanding in organisations (Huq, 2008; 2010; 2015).
Thirdly, there is a gap in leadership skills. An important question that needs to be raised is what are the critical leadership skills that are needed for leaders to support a culture of employee empowerment? (Huq, 2015).
These problems need to be addressed by leaders in order to successfully bring about empowerment in organisations.
In this post, I will be sharing with you some of the critical skills that leaders need to lead in an empowered organisation.
Crisis in Leadership
‘Leadership is crucial and Leaders need to know how to create and support an Employee Empowerment Culture’ (Huq, 2015).
Managing the relationship between employee empowerment and leadership is becoming an increasing challenge for leaders. How should leaders lead? What are the behaviours and leadership style that is expected of leaders?
Leaders in organisations have a responsibility to think about how they are going to empower their employees and what leadership style is needed in an empowered organisation?
‘Crisis in Leadership Underscores Global Challenges’ – an article in the World Economic Forum (2015), states that: ‘The World Economic Global Forum’s Global Leadership Index says 86% of experts believe the world is in the midst of a leadership crisis’; we need to pay attention to overcome this crisis.
‘If I have learned anything from my research, it is this: the factor that empowers the workforce and ultimately determines which organisations succeed or fail is the leadership of those organisations.’ (Bennis, 1984: 16).
Effective utilisation of human resources is a strategic issue for leaders, but, a word of caution – leadership style needs to be favourable to employee empowerment. It has to be the right match (Huq, 2015).
What are the critical leadership skills needed to support a culture of employee empowerment?
It is undeniable that leadership is essential for empowered organisations and leaders need to play a crucial role to support and nurture people, otherwise, the danger is organisations could be heading for ‘crisis’ due to lack of the right kind of leadership which is conducive to employee empowerment. This crisis in leadership needs to be addressed.
Hence, this is a valid question to ask ‘what are the critical leadership skills needed to support a culture of employee empowerment?’
What Skills do Leaders Need? Implementing employee empowerment is not an easy task. Leaders need to understand the significant role that they need to play in the empowerment strategic process.
The results of my in-depth interview with people in management and non-management positions have revealed that employees in organisations are looking for leaders with skills that are people-oriented. In other words, employees prefer a leader who makes them feel valued and respected and provide organisational strategies that are empowering so that they can feel confident ‘within themselves’ to be able to take decisions, which in turn makes work ‘meaningful’ to them (Huq, 2017).
There is an argument that empowered employees are more creative and innovative, and if leaders want people to be innovative and creative and retain their talented employees, then they need to understand what are the most effective leadership skills needed that are conducive to an employee empowerment culture.
Three Important Steps
There is a plethora of management books, articles, tips, executive leadership courses available to learn how to develop leadership skills. But, this is important to note that a leader who leads an empowered organisation is not a generalist leader; the leader of an empowered organisation is a ‘Specialist Leader’. He/she needs to have very definite, particular skills unique and ‘fit’ for an empowered culture. From my research, the evidence is clear that an empowered organisation needs a leader with a people-oriented leadership style (Huq 2015: 14).
The people-oriented leader thinks about people and in order to develop this particular ‘employee empowerment people-oriented skills’, they need to be committed, have the courage and take responsibility to create the conditions which will enable leaders to provide support for the employee empowerment culture to flourish.
So, these three steps are important to get the leader off the ground – commitment, courage and responsibility. Sounds like common sense? But be alert, sometimes common sense is not so common!
Critical Leadership Skills
Leadership needs to be consistent during and throughout the process of the implementation of employee empowerment.
Leaders can benefit immensely by developing these skills and have strategies in place with regards to how to:
· Allow access to information so that employees can have access to the right information and more importantly at the right time.
· Collaborate with employees, customers and all stakeholders appropriately, when and where necessary. This will need a leader to have excellent communication skills.
· Enable all employees to do their best at their jobs and consult with employees listen to their opinions and suggestions. This requires an open door policy for discussions.
· Share power with employees, so that the leader does not operate from a ‘command and control’ mode, but rather, share power with the relevant people in the organisation in terms of developing key strategies, vision and mission of the organisations, where previously employees were never consulted or collaborated with.
· Allow participative decision-making leading to a culture of trust so that employees can take decisions without fear of being blamed or losing their jobs.
Another crucial skill is communication. Leaders need to develop excellent communication skills, which include verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication. With an increase in diverse employees at work, they need to be able to communicate with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and aspire to be a ‘global communicator’.
Developing excellent empowering leadership skills needs to be an ongoing strategy.
For front-line employees, psychological empowerment is necessary because they need the confidence to make on-the-spot decisions in order to keep customers happy and/or respond quickly to customer needs, explained in the Framework for Implementing Employee Empowerment (Huq’s Model of Employee Empowerment, Huq’s Model D, 2015: 212).
An interesting finding from a number of studies is that psychological empowerment has been associated with a broad range of positive outcomes that are beneficial to organisations and individuals, such as, managing stress and burnout to name a few. There are other beneficial factors have also been reported, such as an increase in job motivation, satisfaction and commitment (Huq, 2015).
Achieving these leadership skills for leaders does not happen without a focused approach. Leaders who are responsible to lead in an empowered organisation, need education, training and coaching with regards to acquiring people-oriented leadership skills, which should help them to shape the empowered organisation. Through their learning, these leaders become ‘Specialist Leaders’.
The outcome of the people-oriented leadership style will make the leader strong, consistent and ‘fit for the purpose’ of being a leader leading an empowered organisation with an empowered workforce. Hence, organisations need a ‘Specialist Leader’ fit for the purpose of empowering employees, not a ‘generalist leader’.
To learn more about in-depth leadership coaching please see information at www.rozanahuq.com
There is a high consensus in the management literature that employee empowerment is necessary for the success and survival of organisations.
If organisations are serious about employee empowerment, first, leaders need the knowledge to understand what employee means, second they also need to be clear what they are seeking to achieve via employee empowerment, and third, what framework or model they are going to use to implement employee empowerment at the workplace?
A key question is if work pattern is changing how will Leaders need to adapt in response?
As with all organisational initiatives, if it is not supported by leaders, change initiatives do tend to fail. Leadership style needs to be favourable to employee empowerment. It has to be the right match. If organisations are serious about employee empowerment, they need to ask this important question – what kind of Leaders do they need to recruit?
In this article, I have highlighted the critical ‘specialist’ leadership skills needed to bring about and support and nurture a culture of employee empowerment in organisations.
It is established that a ‘people-oriented’ leadership style is highly desirable. It is the difference between success and failure in the practice of employee empowerment in organisations (Huq, 2010; 2015).
Employee empowerment is not about ‘telling’ people they are empowered. That’s why organisations need a ‘Specialist Leader’ fit for the purpose of empowering employees, not a ‘generalist leader’. These ‘Specialist Leaders’ will know how to create the environment which makes employees ‘feel’ empowered, leading to psychological empowerment.
Dr Rozana A Huq 2018 ©
Bennis, W. (1984); The 4 Competencies of Leadership, Training and Development, August, pp. 14-19.
Huq, R. (2008); An Investigation of What Employee Empowerment Means in Theory and in Practice. PhD Doctoral Research. Queen’s University Belfast. UK.
Huq, R. (2010); Employee Empowerment the rhetoric & reality. Triarchy Press, UK, Devon.
Huq, R. (2015) The Psychology of Employee Empowerment. Concepts, Critical Themes and a Framework for Implementation. Routledge, UK.
Huq, R. (2017) The Impact of Participative Decision-Making with Regards to Empowering Employees. International Journal of Business Administration and Management Research (ISSN Online: 2412 4346, Vol 3(1).
Thank you for reading, until the next Huq Post …
© Dr Rozana Huq, May 2018.
Dr Rozana Huq is an Organisational Behaviourist and Specialist Leadership Coach.
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