Disempowering Beliefs

small__8095592977It is no secret that leadership in the 21st century must look different. Many have contributed well to a fresh understanding of what it will take in a global, hyper-informational, multi-cultural, rapidly changing, and highly mobile society to lead well. One of the truest notions is that current leaders must be continually focused on raising up new leaders. We must develop empowerment cultures within our organizations if we want retain talent and keep the leadership bench full.

There are many leaders today who still lead under an old paradigm. Not only are they not creating an empowerment culture for the next generation of leaders, they are living out old beliefs that are self limiting and adding to a disempowering culture. This type of disempowerment can actually reside in very subtle, but powerful attitudes. It becomes the air that emerging leaders breathe. It becomes the reason that emerging leaders leave.

Lynn Joy McFarland, Larry E. Senn, and John R. Childress collaborated to write Twenty-First Century Leadership: Dialogues with 100 Top Leaders. In one section of their work they highlight five beliefs, that when communicated and lived out, become powerful organizational culture guides to disempowerment.

1. “If I’m the boss, I’m suppose to have all the answers.”

2. “If I’m the boss, I’m not suppose to make any mistakes.”

3.” I’m in charge, no one should question my authority.”

4. “If you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself.”

5. “If we create new things around here, they should be my ideas.”

Do any of these ring a bell? If your answer is “No” then ask someone else close to you who will give you some honest feedback. You might not ever voice these words, but you could still be communicating these attitudes in ways that those around you comply as if you were shouting from a roof top.

Obviously, if you could reverse every one of these statements you would be well on your way to creating a culture of true empowerment.

In a section of the Bible that actually talks about leadership as a grace gift, the Apostle Paul provides a needed context that speaks well to how we must see ourselves. “For by the grave given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

I believe that it is this type of authenticity and self examination that will aid a leader in choosing to empower others–and in the process will multiply the leaders.

(photo credit)

2 replies
  1. Steve Gannon
    Steve Gannon says:

    Great post Gary… thank you!

    I like how you point out how we can have and even show these attitudes without even being aware of them. And I laughed when you asked if those 5 beliefs sound familiar, and if not perhaps you should ask someone close to you… we have probably all shown these attitudes in some small way at some point.

    Thanks again!


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