Self Leadership: The Power Behind Empowerment

September 19, 2019 Ken Blanchard

Back in the 1980s, a manager typically supervised five people. Today, it’s common to find one manager with 25 or even 75 direct reports, often including a number of remote workers that the manager may never meet face to face. An entirely different workplace reality is happening where bosses no longer play the traditional role of telling people what, when, and how to do everything. The success of today’s organizational initiatives depends on the proactive behavior of empowered individuals.

Creating an Engaged Work Force

As today’s leaders move from a command-and-control relationship to a side-by-side relationship with their direct reports, those direct reports must make the shift to leading themselves. Cutting-edge organizations have learned that developing self leaders is a powerful way to positively impact their bottom line. It’s no secret that employees who are proactive self starters are huge contributors to organizational success.

For example, I’ll never forget when a global manufacturer we worked with experienced a major equipment breakdown at a California plant. Rather than laying off the affected work force, the company opted to train them in self leadership. Then a funny thing happened: direct reports began holding their managers accountable and asking them to demonstrate their leadership capabilities. They asked the managers for direction and support and urged them to clarify goals and expectations. Suddenly, managers were studying up on rusty skills and working harder.

When the plant’s ramp-up time was compared to that of eight other plants that had experienced similar breakdowns in the past, it was found that the California plant had reached pre-breakdown production levels faster than any in history. The manufacturer concluded that the successful rebound was due primarily to the proactive behavior of the workers, who were fully engaged and armed with the skill of self leadership.

The Three Skills of a Self Leader

People want to make meaningful contributions and to be appreciated. But sometimes they just don’t have the skills or confidence to ask for what they need to become high achievers. It is the job of leaders to help their direct reports be the best performers they can be.

Leaders and managers ask me all the time how they can help their people become self leaders. Self leaders are created through the teaching of skills and attitudes that foster empowerment. Here are the three skills of self leadership:

  1. Challenge Assumed Constraints. An assumed constraint is a belief, based on past experience, that limits current and future experiences. Self leadership teaches that the constraints are not the problem; it’s that we think these beliefs are our only sources of power.
  1. Activate Points of Power. The five points of power are position power, personal power, task power, knowledge power, and relationship power. The sole advantage of power is the ability to do more good. To increase that ability, a self leader must develop their weak points of power or gather people around them who have points of power they don’t have.
  2. Be Proactive. Self leaders are proactive in asking for the direction and support they require to achieve their goals. Direct reports can use self leadership to diagnose their own development level on a particular goal or task and let their manager know the leadership style they need to succeed.

The success of an organization depends on every person being empowered and committed to achieving results. When a company has an engaged workforce of people who challenge their assumed constraints, utilize their points of power, and proactively ask for the tools they need to succeed, success at individual, team, and organizational levels will follow! 

Want to learn more about creating an empowered workforce of self leaders? Download the free 60-page summary of Leading at a Higher Level.  It’s available for free on The Ken Blanchard Companies website.  Use this link to access the summary.

About the Author

Ken Blanchard

Dr. Ken Blanchard is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of Blanchard®, an international management training and consulting firm. Ken is the coauthor of The One Minute Manager, as well as 65 other books with combined sales totaling more than 21 million copies.

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