Empowering approaches to leadership challenge the leader to become a teacher who teaches followers how to lead both themselves and others. Approaches such as those found in, Creating leaderful organizations: How to bring out leadership in everyone, by J. Raelin stipulates that leadership is found at all levels of any organization. The purpose of leadership roles is to teach followers that they are in fact leaders and must be just as concerned for their responsibilities as the CEO.
Raelin (2003) describes an empowerment approach called, Leaderful Practice. Leaderful Practice is built from leaders who are: concurrent, collective, collaborative, and compassionate in their duties and responsibilities. Concurrent leaders will share power with others without regard to official position on an organizational chart. Collective leaders understand that the community has actual power, and decisions can be made by anyone who has responsibilities relevant to the decision. Collaborative leaders engage in true dialogue with people and see everyone in their context as valuable and able to contribute. Compassionate leaders seek to preserve others’ dignity and value democratic participation as the highest demonstration of acknowledging others’ worth. The sum of these “four c’s” (Raelin, 2003, p. 14) is a leader who can implement Leaderful Practice. In teaching these four c’s to all members of a context, a leader empowers followers to become leaders within their own responsibilities and contexts.
The problem with traditional leadership approaches, according to Raelin (2003), is that they consider the leader role as being a hero who can guide followers to something better. These approaches are heroic models and are outdated. “the point is that hero worship is unfortunately outdated in our age…Relying on a single leader to separate the seas for us works as long as the leader can successfully diagnose the environment and make correct decisions…but what happens when the environment becomes so complex that no single individual could possibly discern all its elements” (p. 23). This question indicates the difficulty a leader can have when complexities outgrow his or abilities to understand and act upon them. Furthermore, what Raelin (2003) suggests as a solution is to first see that, “followership and leadership are in essence part of the same process…Ridding our culture of this distinction between followers and leaders can go a long way toward directing attention away from ancient personalistic accounts of leadership and towards its rightful place as a mutual, social phenomenon” (p. 36). The process of leadership and followership is one process and no distinction should be made between leaders and followers.
One way that Raelin (2003) suggests to establish Leaderful Practice is to promote learning because, “consistent with the adaptive process of leadership, collective leadership may make its most important contribution to Leaderful Practice in promoting learning for an entire organization” (Raelin, 2003, p. 113). Learning allows for adaptive behavior. As environments change, learning allows for a flexible response from both an individual and a group (Raelin, 2003). This flexibility yields higher performance.
Raelin, J. (2003). Creating leaderful organizations: How to bring out leadership in everyone. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.