“Empowerment” is a fancy way of saying that you trust your team with making decisions.
Unfortunately, what some leaders mean when they use that word is that they really only trust their team to the extent that they make the same decisions as the leader themselves would – which, in turn, creates more insecurity than it creates empowerment: “Is that really the decision that the boss would have made?” So, the boss ends up remaining the bottleneck of decision making (a huge source of frustration for many teams.)
True empowerment goes beyond that. It grows from razor sharp clarity about a common goal and a feeling that this is the goal we all share. From the leader it requires the empathy to see how that goal aligns with the goals of the team and the individuals who form the team.
This makes communication one of the crucial skills of the leader. I call that “lighting the path”: This is who we are and this is where we go.
Having a path that the team aligns on, allows us to decide. It allows anyone to decide. When the team is focused towards that common goal, it simplifies decision making and empowers every team member to make decisions on behalf of the team. Not only does the leader care for the team but, in fact, any team member does. Because all care for the same thing.