“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders,” said the business writer Tom Peters – a statement backed up by plenty of research: studies have found that when your employees feel more powerful, they are more productive, exhibit stronger performance, feel more authentic and able to be themselves, and are generally happier and less stressed. Empowered workers even experience 26% more job satisfaction.I
By developing your own charismatic leadership traits (see our workbook to discover a potent recipe of power, presence and warmth), you’ll provide untold inspiration to those you manage. But by becoming more conscious of how you lead with charisma, you can ensure you foster the next generation of leaders within your organisation – something that reflects well on everyone concerned.
1. POWER UP YOUR OWN MINDSET FIRST
Before you set about instilling power in your teams, ensure you’re in the right frame of mind. Many team leaders wrongly assume that by bestowing power upon their employees, they’re giving away some of their own. In the book Influence Without Authority, the authors argue that power does not come in fixed and finite amounts; enabling others to be powerful does not create a reduction in your own power. Rather, there is a net increase in the overall power, “and therefore an overall increase in the capacity to make things happen”.
2. ENCOURAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES TO MAKE DECISIONS
Autonomy encourages commitment and efficiency, researchers have found – and that goes even for the most junior members of a team.ii Work on building a relationship based on trust, so that you feel comfortable allowing your team members to make their own decisions, and they can do so knowing you have their backs. When setting a project, be clear about which decisions an employee has the authority to take on their own, and which you’d like consensus on, taking care to ensure that you are available in a coach or guide capacity should they want to run anything by you. Similarly, when making managerial decisions whose outcome will directly affect those on the frontline, ensure that you include them in the process. Be authentic – a team will see straight through a manager who’s paying lip service to their ideas.
3. FOSTER A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH MISTAKES CAN OCCUR
When you encourage your team to take autonomous decisions and manage their own careers, mistakes will inevitably happen. Being open about your own mistakes and what you learned from them can encourage team members to own their own errors. Use your 1-2-1s to delve into the lesson, allowing the employee to take the lead. This is a great way to empower your juniors to grow, lose their fear of stepping outside comfort zones and become independent thinkers.
4. SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON ALTERNATIVE ROUTES
Employees who feel powerless at work crave more choices, while those who feel autonomous and empowered, even at junior levels, are content with fewer.iii Encouraging your team members to see new or alternative avenues to explore in their day-to-day working lives can help unlock their own thinking with regards to choices. “You can make that seemingly powerless person feel better about their job and their duties by giving them some choice, in the way they do the work or what project they work on,” said the London Business School study’s author.
5. DELEGATE – AND THEN STEP AWAY
One of the biggest mistakes the delegating manager makes is to offload a task onto an employee with overly specific instructions for how it should be carried out. Ask yourself whether your dialogue is replete with helpful tips and advice that will enable your employee to be more successful, or whether you are simply micromanaging the process. Be clear what the outcome should be – what the piece of work is and when you need it by – but leave as much of the ‘how’ as possible up to them and their own working style. You might even learn from their fresh input and ideas.
6. BUILD ON STRENGTHS
Focusing on an employee’s strengths results in more productive teams than trying to improve their weaknesses. Those workers who are not only aware of their strengths but actively use them on a daily basis are also six times more likely to be engaged on the job and less likely to want to leave.iv The first step is to have an open conversation about an employee’s strengths – don’t automatically assume they’re aware of them, so work with them to understand their own. Wherever possible assign tasks in accordance with strengths, looking for ways to offer ‘strength training’ whereby they develop these traits ever further. Notice if and when new strengths emerge, flag up particular strengths within a team by pairing up individuals who can learn from one another, and be a proud sponsor of the individuals within your team, taking opportunities to showcase their talents wherever possible.
7. LET EVERYONE SHOWCASE THEIR OWN WORK
When presenting on behalf of your team take care to give credit where it’s due. But look also for opportunities to present together as a unified team, demonstrating not just what you’re working on, but something about how you operate as a group and how each of your strengths contributes to overall success. When embarking on a group presentation it’s essential you create a schedule and stay on track with it, establish roles and responsibilities upfront, and have a unified strategy in which each individual understands how they can shine by playing to their own strengths. Don’t neglect to prepare for that Q&A at the end, so that all the planning doesn’t come unstuck as you wrap up.