By Rena Kalogianni

The Meaning of Empowering Leaders

Over the past few years, we’ve all seen shifts not only in the way we work but in what we need from our leaders. Expectations of leadership change with the times as we shift away from authoritative leadership styles toward trust-based ones. Beyond traditional business acumen, we need leaders with greater capacity for empathy, trust-building, who are able to successfully attract and retain talent and navigate the aspirations of employees, who are now motivated as much by values as by salary.

And here comes the challenge!

There are cases where people are promoted from within or hired externally, or their start-up has expanded so fast so they are now in the wheel of an organisation, expected to lead successfully their people. But in most cases, this does not imply that they are fully prepared to be leaders. And this is absolutely ok to admit, recognise and work on it. The good news is that, according to recent scientific studies, regardless of whether someone is a “born leader,” everyone has room to learn new skills and grow in leadership competency

Leaders, first and foremost, are required to develop their inner capabilities by reflecting on themselves, understanding their strengths, their weaknesses, their emotions, their causes and impact on others.  This is a key enabler to activate the other components of their role which are setting the culture tone, leading and connecting with people and leading change. Quite “few” things, right? Developing exceptional leaders begins with a culture that promotes learning and encourages leadership development programs to help leaders acquire the proper skills. 

And as expectations change with the times, the methods for developing leaders also need to change. 

Recent studies from Harvard Business Review have shown that the most successful leadership programs and techniques are turning to be the relationship-based ones as opposed to skills training which is the most widely used, but the least effective.

These techniques include leadership coaching— when  external professional advisors guide employee development—and mentoring, in which an experienced person, internal or external, individually advises a less experienced employee. The effectiveness of such techniques lies in that  both the aforementioned methods are personalised to an individual’s needs, applied to their day-to-day work, and designed to hold them accountable for their goals. 

Moreover, according to this research: 

  • More than 70% of individuals who receive relationship-based leadership programs improved work performance, relationship building and effective communication skills.
  • 40% of organisations that use coaching or mentoring report that their organisation has realised better retention of desired talent, compared to 24% of those that do not use mentoring or coaching. 
  • Leadership programs are more effective when they aren’t  just a one-time two-week course. Leadership is a deeper challenge and people need consistent support.

Developing inner capabilities and people skills are the most fundamental elements to acquire in order to be an effective leader. With proper guidance and support through relationship-based approaches before and after assuming a new role,  leaders can grow professionally so that they can build trust, attract top performers who seek growth opportunities and build high-performing teams.

And as Brene Brown has stated “Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage. The world is desperate for braver leaders.”

It’s time for all of us to step up.