Defining Empowerment LO7690

William J. Hobler, Jr (
Thu, 30 May 1996 21:45:52 -0400

Replying to LO7662 --

What an interesting juxtaposition. I participate in the digest version of
this list and in one John Warfield was firm in stating that in a complex
situation requiring a meeting of minds

>Every individual's view on what are the most important aspects of what is
>being dealt with is different.
>Moreover, it is almost always true as well that:
>There is not a majority view on anything.

In the next message Diane Korzeniewski asked

>After having used the term empowerment for a couple years, I realized I
>did not have the ability to define it in simple terms. Is it possible for
>participants on this list to come up with a mutually acceptable definition
>or description?

Diane, I suggest you read some of the archives from this list. The
subject of leaders empowering their people has been much discussed. You
will find some interesting nuances.

I prefer thinking that an empowered person has control of the life
situation with which they are dealing. For children the parent empowers
the child as the parent believes the child gains the capability to control
the situation. This becomes a real struggle at about child's age 13. The
child considers him or herself capable of much more control than the

In business, government and the military I find the situation very much
similar to raising children. To empower people is to allow them as much
control of a situation as is possible. You have a responsibility to
prepare them, to establish the atmosphere of trust that is required and to
support them as they take control. At times I have had to almost force
control onto people. How, by refusing to make decisions that were within
their power to make.

At times I have been thrilled as I saw people empowering themselves. They
took responsibility for their own work (and some of mine thankfully).

Let me take a shot at the verb form, to empower in the context of work.
To empower is the process by which an organization establishes and
reinforces conditions which allow its members maximum control of their
work situation.

-- Bill Hobler

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