Employee empowerment initiatives that work

In the business world, there are managers and there are leaders. Some leaders are great managers, and some managers are great leaders. But there are clear differences between management and leadership. A manager is someone who is tasked with carrying out specific roles inside an organization. The manager is appointed to a position. As such, the manager has power through position.
Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

A leader by contrast is a powerful force in an organization by dint of the fact that the leader empowers people, inspires people, and exudes positive energy. There are many examples of excellent leaders, including charismatic people Richard Branson, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Isabel Dos Santos. Leaders are successful because they are able to drive people to action. They are persuasive, inspirational, and action-oriented.

Leadership styles are continually changing to match marketplace requirements, and dovetail with the cultural zeitgeist of our time. While authoritarian leadership certainly exists in many parts of the world, it is slowly being phased out in favor of collaborative leadership. Nowadays, companies understand that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. To this end, the ideas, opinions, skills and abilities of employees are sacrosanct.

Employees perform better when they are part of decision-making processes, work-related activities, and think tanks. Leadership through fear generates lower levels of productivity than inclusive and supportive leadership. When employees are stripped of autonomy and creative thinking, they perform sub-optimally. By contrast, the infusion of supportive leadership with an employee’s innate skills and abilities provides for substantial growth prospects, improved loyalty, and lower staff turnover.

The command and control mentality is waning, and for good reason. Markets tend to eschew this type of mentality where people are dictated to and treated poorly. Effective leadership is all about getting the best out of people for the greater good of the company. By tapping into each person's innate skills and abilities, a great leader can learn from the employees and improve productivity and profitability alike. Rather than dictating to others, leadership is about collaborating with others. Since no person is an island, good leadership assumes that empowerment is the best way to build a team and position a company for success.

Empowering women is key

Women empowerment is particularly important in a modern economy. Since women constitute approximately 50% of any given country's population, it stands to reason that the empowerment of women is the single-most important factor for success in today's economy. Patriarchal societies have gravitated towards specific roles for men and women. Countries across Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere tend to relegate women to the role of homemakers and caregivers. Times they are a changing. Powerful women now pepper the scene across Africa, Latin America, and beyond. Isabel Dos Santos is one prime example of grit, determination, and resolve.

She went against the grain, got educated with an electrical engineering degree at King's College in London, and came back to Angola to effect dramatic change across the country. By advocating for women's rights, gender equality, equal pay for equal work, and skills and educational initiatives specifically geared towards women, she has earned her place as one of the most respected leaders in the world. Isabel was instrumental in setting up the strawberry farms in Humpata in the province of Huila, Angola. Thanks to this program, 120+ women now have employment and are economically independent. Much work remains to be done, but the tide is shifting.

Effective leadership techniques in the modern economy

The world's most effective leaders have lots of followers. Take Isabel Dos Santos as a case in point. She is passionate about her countrymen, technology, innovation, and social causes. As the leader of multiple multinational corporations including Unitel, ZAP, CANDANDO, Efacec, and Sodiba, she understands that people are the most valuable assets.Investment in skills training and education is a top priority to Dos Santos. To facilitate career advancement,she awarded six scholarships to the Royal Agricultural University in the United Kingdom. Through the Diversification of our Economies program, African students have opportunities to study abroad and apply their newfound knowledge to African agriculture.

Another popular leadership initiative is ‘Seeds for the Future’. This program is geared towards college students seeking to expand their cultural horizons. Students get to learn Mandarin in Beijing, China, and experience large-scale economic enterprise at the Huawei campus in Shenzhen. For Isabel, it's also about the children, their well-being, and their education. While literacy is often touted as the number one objective for African nations, Isabel goes a step further and talks about education and skills training being synchronized with employment prospects for maximum benefit. Another important initiative championed by Dos Santos is the Luanda-based Home Kuzola project. Hundreds of children are provided with food, shelter and a nurturing environment to develop their potential. Her company ZAP teamed up with Global Lives Project to provide the necessary funding to improve the children shelter.

Leadership often extends well beyond the workplace to grassroots level. Effective leaders understand that sustainable businesses are only possible when the communities that support local businesses are prospering. Infrastructure development, technological innovation, education, health and wellness, housing, and safe drinking water form part of the broader macroeconomic arena that must be tackled for leaders to get the most out of their employees. A commitment to local communities goes a long way towards building lasting business success.

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