Leadership and the Problem of Bogus Empowerment
Joanne B. Ciulla
Empowerment conjures up pictures of inspired and confident people or groups of people who are ready and able to take control of their lives and better their world. The empowered are the neighbors in a community who band together and take action to drive out drug dealers; the longtime welfare mother who gets a job and goes on to start a business; the child who learns to read and to ride a bike. Power is a relationship between people with mutual intentions or purposes. 1 Empowerment is about giving people the confidence, competence, freedom, and resources to act on their own judgments. Hence, when a person or group of people are empowered, they undergo a change in their relationship to other people who hold power and with whom they share mutual goals. In a community, empowering citizens changes their relationship to each other and to other holders of power such as business and government. In a business, empowering employees changes their relationship to each other, management, and the work process.
You can hardly pick up a business book today without seeing the words leadership, empowerment, trust, or commitment either on the cover or in the text. Gone are the bosses of the industrial era. Organizations have entered a new age where employees are partners and part of the team. Not only are managers supposed to be leaders, but all