Giving away power
To empower is to actually give other people power, not only to delegate. After a long career history in Telenor, Bitte Kverum, current HR Head in Uninor, really understands what empowerment means when it comes to leadership.
“It’s not about delegation. Delegation is about giving tasks. But empowering someone means giving away power. That’s not always easy as a leader,” explains Bitte. She believes that in order for leaders to practice empowerment, there are two prerequisites: clear goals and expectation + value-driven leadership with high ethical standards.
Setting people up for success
In Telenor, we believe that empowerment is about setting people up for success and creating the right conditions for them to perform. This means that we operate as a flat organization that is not dictated by hierarchy, no matter the cultural context. Leaders should not use their positions to hold people back but rather to push people forward, encouraging them to share their ideas and opinions. I believe that all people perform best when they have a strong sense of ownership and feel that they are taken seriously, and it’s the leader’s job to create this kind of open environment. This type of trust in people is critical for our success.
Finding your own way
The best leaders in Telenor give away power and expect results. They build trust, enable people to deliver and invite constructive feedback. My experience with high performing teams is that they are both empowered and held accountable, and that there is openness among the team to discuss other ways of doing things. I have been fortunate to have had leaders who have supported me throughout my career. Sometimes I have been thrown out into deep water and encouraged to find my own way. If I’ve gone off course, they set me back on track by asking good questions, supporting me and still holding me accountable for finding the way forward.
Getting out of the way
Theodore Roosevelt once said “the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
I think that what Roosevelt was getting at is that good leaders are there for their team, coaching them and giving them feedback, while simultaneously not getting in their way. Being part of a knowledge-intensive company, it is important that our leaders nourish and build on their teams’ insight and capabilities. And at the end of the day we should all strive to unlock people’s potential to become better in order to build the leaders of tomorrow.