Empowering versus Enabling, By Kurt Larsson

Empowering versus Enabling, By Kurt Larsson

Empowering someone is a magical process especially when that person is used to being enabled. Although it is much easier to say yes when someone, often kindly, says ”there, there, let me help you”, how much do you learn and how much more proficient are you at doing that task next time?

Gestures 02Enabling someone is to ”make them able to” do something. Scratching under the surface of this simple definition is an undercurrent that implies that the person being enabled is still not fully owning the process. In fact, it describes nothing about how you ”make them able”.  Yep, they were able to do it, but can they now do it themselves or will they want to next time, especially if you are not around?

What if enabling is more about you and filling an old, often automatic or insatiable need to help? It also could have to do with stroking your own ego so that you feel more valuable (often because you feel bad when not somehow in action). In short it’s about focusing on doing something without questioning who you are being and what you stand for while doing it. Some have described it as helping someone you (consciously or not) feel superior towards rather than contributing to an equal. What if this is the difference between giving advice and coaching someone well?

These may be a harsh distinctions requiring lots of brave insighst and honesty, but if you are a leader that is constantly doing stuff for members of your group you are probably already noticing a tremendous drain of personal energy. And why not? Everyone loves Santa Claus! Yet the consequences can rapidly mount up in the form of :

  • A lower level of engagement and responsibility from your colleagues
  • Obligation and resentment as you begin to habitually take over
  • More stress and tension in the workplace
  • Less inspiration and more dis-ease
  • Inferior results that more and more depend upon your participation
  • You may retain all the credit for the short term, but what is the cost?


Gestures 03Empowering someone provides the one being empowered has both the means and the inspiration to take on doing the task. They own this task and thanks to you, they understand the task’s benefits themselves and others. This is pure delegation and there is no attachment left from you once you have empowered someone else correctly. You are now free to go and empower others as you have supported and guided them to be even more independent and powerful. Welcome to the realm of real leadership!

To lead is to serve and empowerment allows you to become totally immersed in the cleansing waters of service. Your focus is not about your personal gain. Instead it is about inspiring and teaching someone else in a way that they can own it totally and become excited to do it.

Could we go further with this and maybe add that this is what distinguishes a leader from a manager? What if a true leader understands and lives by the principle that to inspire and engage others to do their best is a win/win for all concerned?

It is about being a catalyst to get things done regardless of who gets the credit or blame.
As Rear Admiral Grace Hopper USN once said ”you manage things but you lead people”.

Some easy ways to empower others:

  • Become passionate about what you are delegating. Make sure everyone involved understands you can and actually do enjoy doing the task you are now delegating.
  • Make it feel like a privilege to be chosen to do the task. Raising someone up to do a task rather than dumping it on them can be quite a positive game changer.
  • Serve your listener. The more you make this about them and how important it is to them the more they can relax and focus on the task instead of on you and finding any hidden agenda you may have.
  • Listen closely to any objections. Even empowerment can be seen as a sales job. Yet, as any talented salesöperson with integrity will tell you that the more you serve someone the less you have to sell to them. Good listening is a valued service.
  • Make the conversation light and enjoyable. The more heavy and serious you become the more your listener will probably be on guard or feel guilty or obligated to do what you are proposing.
  • Celebrate accomplishment and make sure the empowerment manifests with joy and is embodied by the person doing it.


Learning to empower others is one of the most Sensational of all the Sensational Soft Skills. This article just scratches the surface. If you would like to learn more about integrating this skill into your leadership toolbox, please contact us at info@expandingu.com.

About The Author


I am fascinated with what makes us humans ”tick”, especially when it comes to how we consciously communicate and express ourselves with our body language. My business background is in international sales and sales management, selling everything from automobile tires in Houston, Tx, to retail banking delivery systems in 20 countries. I have graduated from CoachU’s 3 year Coach Training program, been certified as an Extended DISC consultant and become a Certified International Body Harmony Teacher with over 20 years of ”hands-on” experience in bodywork. This rich and varied background combined with over 20 years of being an entrepreneur has blessed me with insights and experiences I never would have noticed in the corporate world. Mainstream business now seems to be waking up to the riches available from more conscious and responsible business practices. Expanding Understanding’s Sensational Soft Skills Toolbox , the books I have written and training I have developed now provide savvy decision makers and their colleagues measurable results and a more restful night's sleep. These tools provide an edge in consciously understanding, deliberately using and profiting from the most powerful communication tool available, our bodies. I look forward to meeting you on this path to mastery in non verbal communication.

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