Thus far, we have discussed “Pro-active” empowerment and “Re-active” empowerment.
In this third article in a series,, we will explore what Robert Keck, Ph.d described as “the courage to be empowered”.
The Courage to Be Empowered
In all honesty, for most people, it is easier to drift along or spend our energy reacting, than it is to open our lives to the power of co-creation. It is about fully opening ourselves to serve a purpose greater than ourselves and inviting others to join us. Sometimes being empowered is taking new action. Sometimes it is choosing new ways of thinking and being present. At other times, our gifts and talents may be best used for leadership when we simply have the humility to “get out of the way” and allow ourselves to be used in ways that we had not imagined or even chosen. It takes great courage to live and lead in this manner.
It takes courage, because everything continues to change and we can’t always predict where the journey will lead and what challenges we will meet along the way.
It takes courage because empowerment is about discovering our uniqueness, or “true” or “fundamental” self. The spiritual task of empowerment is to find one’s own unique relationship to the Source of life and to discover and live one’s own special version of spirit incarnate.
It takes courage because not all choose to be empowered. The path to empowerment usually involves meeting our “shadow” side as well as our uniqueness. It is easier some days to conform to someone else’s image of who we should be or stay on the surface of things and project our shadows on to someone or something else than to live an empowered life. It is easier to not face the many unknowns that are part of life today.
To be empowered is to dream big and then to be willing to become the container through which these large visions can emerge into reality. It takes courage to hold the vision and to carry the disappointments that come when we are not able to achieve that which we are reaching for or things take much longer than we bargained. It is easier to be a pessimist, to be cautious, or to be content with mediocrity than to face the inevitability of disappointment and challenge on the road to becoming.
It takes courage to open ourselves in relationships and partnerships, to empower others and allow ourselves to be empowered. Transformation brings us close to the fire and we can and do sometimes get burned! As the heat goes up, things are exposed for what they are and there is a type of purification that happens within us and for the organization if we are open. It takes courage to be vulnerable to burns and the pain that comes with, even though it may be just what is needed in the long run.
Empowerment is about claiming the power available to us to personify and usher in a new vision based on deep values and a worthy mission. It is about making ourselves as leaders available to be the containers through which this transformation can unfold. In my experience, this requires great courage, but is one of the most satisfying experiences that a leader can have.
For your consideration:
- What aspect of empowerment requires the greatest courage for you to embrace?
- What fears can get in your way?
- How do you see your life and leadership as a vehicle for personal, organizational or social transformation?
- How do you sustain yourself (and others) as you go about this work?
Janet M Drey is the managing director of the Consortium for Contemplative Leadership, a community dedicated to advancing the adoption and practice of contemplative leadership. Find out more about Janet’s services and the Consortium here.