Leadership Barometer 82 – Leaders Empower People

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Strong Leaders Empower People

On this dimension there is a stark contrast between great leaders and poor ones. In organizations with great leaders, they empower people. They provide a clear and believable vision of the future that is truly compelling to the workers.

They provide the resources and support required to reach that vision. They encourage and enable people to put their best efforts into the journey toward success.

They celebrate the small wins along the way to reinforce the progress. If there is a problem, the leaders work to reduce or eliminate it quickly.

They communicate constantly how things are progressing toward the vision. People feel informed and motivated.

Weak Leaders

When leaders are weak, you see the exact opposite. Leaders are viewed by the employees as barriers. They get in the way of progress by invoking bureaucratic hurdles that make extra work or cause conflict.

They use a command-and-control philosophy that stifles creativity and empowerment. There is a foggy vision or the vision is not that exciting to employees. Like if they struggle to make it happen, the result will not be so great.

I felt that in my final years with a once-successful company. The vision was very clear; they had to shrink their way to success. This meant huge stress and more workers who would be let go year after year. What an awful vision! I left and never looked back.

In organizations that are led by weak leaders, people feel they are operating with both hands tied behind their backs. This condition leads to poor performance, and so the leaders put on more and more pressure to compensate. It is a vicious circle that reminds me of the water funnel in a toilet. In fact, it is very much like that.

Weak leaders also fail to communicate well, so quite often workers are left to create their own stories about what is happening in the organization. That condition will usually have a strong negative effect on morale.


If you want to measure the caliber of a leader, just start asking the people in the organization if their leader empowers people or is a barrier to progress. Their answer will tell you quickly how talented that leader is.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.

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