For years I have had a kind of uneasy relationship with the word empowerment. When I heard management types state that they needed to “empower their people”, it brought to mind the concept of the balance of power. Was it arrogant of these leaders to think they had so much power over others that they could choose to empower them or not? It was the terminology they used when they described what this process of empowering others looked like that created the sense of alarm in me-it seemed to consist of not much more than granting very limited opportunities to make small decisions on their own. However, when I look at one of the definitions of empowerment in Wikipedia I am reminded that the word is not the problem; it is the misinterpretation that creates my unease.
“The process which enables one to gain power, authority and influence over others, institutions or society. Empowerment is probably the totality of the following or similar capabilities:-
Having decision-making power of one's own
Having access to information and resources for taking proper decision
Having a range of options from which you can make choices (not just yes/no, either/or.)
Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
Having positive thinking on the ability to make change
Ability to learn skills for improving one's personal or group power
Ability to change others’ perceptions by democratic means
Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated
Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma
Increasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong
In short, empowerment is the process that allows one to gain the knowledge, skill-sets and attitude needed to cope with the changing world and the circumstances in which one lives.”
Successful leaders understand this definition and create an environment that allows the members of the organization to develop the competencies/skills required to be empowered. The competencies required for personal resilience are the same competencies required for empowerment and aids in a positive and successful approach to change.