Leadership Behavior - Enabling Others to Act

Enabling Others to Act is the behavior of a confident leader. Leaders who understand the strengths of their employees and their potential for more responsibility feel confident in enabling others to take control and initiative.

Enabling is a leadership behavior while controlling and directing is a management behavior. While there are times when leaders control and direct, the best behavior is to shift toward enabling.

Leadership Tips

Hire well, orient well and get of out the way.

If you ask for input, act on the input or explain how you will use the input. When employees are asked for their ideas, they have a reasonable expectation that the ideas will be used.


Leadership Behavior: Why Enabling Works

Employees' brains consistently show higher stress in the presence of the boss. Employees also rate any interaction with the boss as more stressful than interactions with colleagues. Therefore, employees are more calm and focused when they are in charge of their own work and not under the constantly evaluative eye of a boss.

Enabling Others to Act is a leadership behavior in line with how the human brain works in processing information and relationships. Remember that in the course of human history, assembly line and factory type work is recent. Implementing assembly line work took persuasion, coersion and a certain amount of force to implement and maintain; it still does.

Enlisting people's brains and commitment to their own work has a higher return. Dr. David Rock identified Autonomy as one of five motivation factors. Every person has some level of autonomy as a motivator, although the positioning among the five and the strength of each motivator varies from person to person. The other motivators Dr. Rock identified from brain science research are Status, Certainty, Relatedness and Fairness.

In short, every person wants to be captain of ship "me" or at least some decisions about where the ship is going.

Limits to Enabling

Enabling only happens well when several conditions are met, as employees must:

  • Clearly understand expectations
  • Have the skills, knowledge and ability to meet those expectations
  • Know when they need to call on the leader to remove roadblocks, provide resources, and serve as liaison to other departments and customers

If an employee is learning the job or learning a new task/process on the job, consider using Situational Leadership. The Situational Leadership model provides a quick, usable tool to prepare the employee and the manager to be ready for delegation. Only when the employee if fully prepared, will enabling be successful.