Think Shift Academy Video: Leadership’s Fear of Empowerment

Gordon Dmytriw

Gord Dmytriw describes how leaders sometimes get in the way of employee engagement because they fear empowerment.


Hi. My name is Gord Dmytriw. I'm the Vice President of Consulting for Think Shift. I'm here hopefully to shift your thinking about how leaders sometimes get in the way of employee engagement because they fear empowerment. Empowerment is one of those things that we hear about, but we don't actually breakdown. I'm here to break it down for you. We believe that empowerment is basically a function of four behavior sets. Responsibility, authority, accountability, and transparency. RAAT or RATE, depending on the kind of acronym you want to pronounce.

Responsibility is that notion, and I'm not talking about formal responsibility like the kind that you find in a job description, I'm talking more about the informal responsibility that sort of ... Those responsibilities that sort of are created and then dissolved in the every day hurly-burly of work. If you, as a leader, can develop the habits of mind and promote those same habits of mind in your employees to drive to clarity around who, what, and where of informal responsibilities, confidence soars, so does empowerment.

A, authority. True empowerment exists when we feel that we can make a decision that's counter to the intuitions of our supervisor. Drive decision-making deep into your organization and give away that authority. Be the coach who helps people make better decisions. In that confidence to make better decisions, empowerment soars.

Accountability. We like to think that we're pretty good at holding ourselves accountable to commitments, and perhaps we are. But are we prepared to hold others to their commitments? Are we prepared to value results over popularity? When you can support a culture where everybody holds one another accountable to their commitments, not only down the chain but up the chain, when that happens, confidence to get things done soars. So does empowerment.

Finally, transparency. Have open, honest, transparent conversations about performance. Have the courage to talk about one another's shortcomings. It's in that conversation that you can lean forward as a leader and help people improve. People are empowered when they feel that their boss has their back.

Responsibility, accountability, authority, transparency. When you can promote those four sets of behaviors, you create a culture of empowerment. Empowered people give discretionary effort. That extra 1%, 2%, 10%, that people give not because they have to, but because they want to. That discretionary effort, that is the hallmark of an engaged culture. Create one by focusing on responsibility, authority, accountability, and transparency in your organization.

To discuss leadership’s fear of empowerment further, contact our team at (503) 789-1338 or


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