the most frustrating choice managers make

When managers see their role as a small cog in a bigger system they do whatever they can to fit in. They trade power for conformity.

Their team yearns for bold vision, challenging questions, and scaffolding support. But they look up and see weakness, which makes them feel weaker and diminishes results.

Nothing saddens me more than potential leaders who give away their power. Feeling powerless to change the game, they buckle down and support, but don’t inspire.

Somehow they think this approach will inspire loyalty and translate to results. They’re in no position to empower, because they have not power to share. Great leaders generate power and then share it.

5 Ways to Regain Leadership Power

Teams are empowered by power. Be sure you have enough to share.
  • Connected – Build great relationships up down and sideways. Your team longs for a leader who’s in the game, and teaches them how to play it.
  • Courageous – Stop complaining about the system, or what can’t be done. If you really think you’re powerless, step down and let someone else be the leader.
  • Creative – Help your team find solutions in the areas they feel most helpless
  • Challenging – Encourage your team to do more than they ever thought possible. Expect a lot.  Keep raising the bar. Forget benchmarks and establish higher standards. Celebrate progress and build desire for what’s possible.
  • Calm – Stay above the fray. Buffer the madness, but also teach them how to sail in a storm.

Yes, this is part of our crowd-sourced e-book series on the Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make, so please share your stories.

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Filed Under:   Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning, Communication, Energy & Engagement
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Steve Borek   |   04 June 2014   |   Reply

Put people in position to win.

The company, leader, team etc. have goals, initiatives, etc.

To regain leadership, provide the required resources to get the job done.

Your team will love you for it. Before you know it, they’ll be dumping a big old jug of ice infused Gatorade over your head.

Karin Hurt   |   04 June 2014   |   Reply

Steve, love it. When I coached a swim team back in college, I knew I was on track when the kids felt compelled to throw me into the pool after our wins ;-)

LaRae Quy   |   04 June 2014   |   Reply

Love this Karin! I especially like “developing relationships up, down, and sideways.” The best way to build not only solid relationships but a solid reputation as well.

Karin Hurt   |   09 June 2014   |   Reply

Larae, So true. Track record and reputation go hand in hand.

Paul LaRue   |   05 June 2014   |   Reply


I worked in an oppressive organization with a heavy handed division president. We had a director of operations who fully embodied the 5 C’s you mention here. He fully connected everyone, stepped in to make changes, was calm, and an incredible buffer in the company. He truly kept all engaged and inspired to do more. If it were not for him the division would never had the success it had. He got the most out of everyone whereas most other people in his position would have retreated thinking they couldn’t change anything. He was my best mentor whom I still keep up with 15 years later.

Karin Hurt   |   09 June 2014   |   Reply

Paul, Thanks so much for sharing this powerful example.

Alli Polin   |   05 June 2014   |   Reply

I was always frustrated when my boss would say “There’s nothing we can do. I have no choice.” Really? My philosophy is that we always have a choice and there is always a way to figure it out even in less than ideal circumstances. Great advice to middle managers – if you can’t or won’t make things happen step aside so someone else can. With you, Karin!

Karin Hurt   |   09 June 2014   |   Reply

Alli, Thanks for sharing. Yeah, the last thing your team wants to hear is that you’re feeling stuck without choices… after all, isn’t clearing the path a big part of a leaders job? Thanks as always for weighing in.