How to Create a Culture of Empowerment Without Entitlement


Empowerment is generally considered a positive concept, but an attitude of entitlement typically carries a negative connotation. Is it possible that the space between the two is blurry at times?

As a leader, you know it's important to truly empower your team to lead, yet at times you may be hesitant, wondering if empowerment feeds entitlement.

One pastor asked: "How do I create a culture of empowerment without creating a culture of entitlement?"

Another pastor said: "It seems like the more I give away, the more this person wants."

Empowerment isn't an attitude or feeling or something you merely grant or bestow upon your leaders.

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Genuine empowerment requires an intentional process that needs consistent effort and commitment.

Empowerment within a vision-based organization committed to healthy teamwork is not a pass for the leaders to do what they want. It is not complete autonomy and freedom.

This is where entitlement can begin to blur the picture. Entitlement brings certain expectations in a context of great freedom. Entitlement requires little process or accountability, and it is rarely partnership-based.

— Entitlement is an attitude or internal disposition.

— Empowerment is an intentional process.

Empowerment is an intentional process that results in leaders who are well trained, trusted, resourced, connected to the culture and aligned with the vision.

A person with a sense of entitlement isn't a bad person; in fact, they may be gifted, kind and glad to be part of the organization, but some core notion exists within that person of receiving what is not earned, but in some way, deserved.

Empowered leaders receive consistent support, coaching, guidelines, communication and encouragement.

5 Comparisons That Distinguish Empowerment From Entitlement

1. Empowerment is something earned. Entitlement is a sense of something owed. Years ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a young leader on the team who was a bit frustrated because he hadn't been selected for a promotion. I explained that he'd only been on staff for about eight minutes. OK, that's exaggerated, but not by much.

I don't think he had an entitlement attitude, but he hadn't yet wrestled down the concept of earning something rather than deserving it. (Or worse, being owed.)

Empowerment is something earned over time; it's a process of growing as a leader and building what you have been given before you are given more.

Entitlement carries a sense of equality and fairness designed largely inside one's own thoughts and desires.

The trouble with this aspect of entitlement is that whatever is received is rarely enough, and it does not manifest itself with gratitude.

2. Empowerment is based on trust and belief. Entitlement can operate in the absence of relationship. All authority is transferred; it's an issue of stewardship, not ownership. Empowerment is a trust, not a privilege.

The transfer of authority is based on trust, and trust is at the core of all healthy and productive relationships.

Empowerment is based on the belief that the person is the right person for the responsibility and has the competence and capacity to do the job well.

Entitlement allows someone to receive a position without trust or belief, but merely as a transactional moment or mechanical decision.

In essence, that means without relationship.

Empowerment is human and personal; it's based on a heart level trust and belief in potential, not "it's your turn" or "next in line."

When Kevin Myers, our senior pastor, empowered me 19 years ago as his executive pastor, it was based on trust and belief in me and our relationship. In it, there is honor and respect—and from me, much gratitude. It's a relationship we both enjoy.

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Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

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