Healthy Leaders


7 Ways to Share Power

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

In organizations that rely on external power and control to make people perform, the constituents rarely achieve their best. The capacity of individuals and organizations to excel grows when the people do things because they want to, and not because they have to. When people are mere powerless pawns, they feel weak and insignificant. Empowered people, however, possess greater confidence, determination and effectiveness.

As the following chart demonstrates, when you give away responsibility you must also give away authority.

Jesus did this:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore [you] go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:18-19)

The Great Commission marked a profound transition. Until this point, Jesus had been totally responsible for the work of the kingdom of God on the earth. Now He was turning this responsibility over to His team. Notice that He did not only give them responsibility, He also gave them authority (Matt. 16:19; Mark 16:17-18; John 20:23).

Clearly, Jesus was more capable than His disciples to do all of this, yet He gave power away.

Sharing Power with Others

The seven leadership essentials of sharing power with others are:

  1. Give power away. Paradoxically, leaders become more powerful when they give their own power away. Leadership power is not a fixed and limited sum – like a pie that is divided into pieces – to be hoarded and grudgingly divided up only when absolutely necessary. Everyone benefits when a leader gives power away. No one loses – especially not the leader! A leader’s power is not reduced when he empowers others. Organizationally, power actually consolidates and multiplies when it is shared with others. When people have responsibility and genuine influence, their commitment to the organization and its success drastically increases. The key to unleashing an organization’s potential to excel is putting the power in the hands of the people who perform the work. Thus, leaders must trust and respect their constituents, and they must know their people well enough to empower them appropriately. Jesus is our ultimate Model for this (Matt. 10:1; Mark 16:15-20).

Your priority is not simply to get the task done, but to build the person for the future. So, don’t play it safe!

Jesus gave His disciples challenging assignments even when they were not perfect. In Mark 16, Jesus gave them an extra- ordinary assignment immediately after they had failed three times (vv. 8, 11, 13-14)! Two thousand years later, almost 700 million believers around the world demonstrate the wisdom of Jesus’ strategy here; it worked! Certainly, Jesus’ disciples made some errors along the way, but in the long term it worked!

The following are some of the reasons why leaders might find it hard to give power away:

  1. Failure to plan. To simply recruit someone at the last moment to do something is “dumping,” not delegating. The leader must think ahead, communicate thoroughly and commit to an effective ongoing oversight.

And giving power away carries with it significant benefits.

  1. Everyone avoids burnout.(Ex. 18:17-23)

Leaders have a choice: they can hold onto their power (authority, responsibility and privilege) and use it purely for selfish ends, or they can give their power away to others. The more power you have, the less you should use, and the more you should give away. Servant leaders who take the power that flows to them and connect it to others become power generators from which their constituents draw strength.

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