You can sort of understand the need for a gun. There are those who believe a gun is empowering. The problem, with empowering somebody else with a gun though, is that they might just shoot you with it.
Okay, so how about we find a different way to empower people. Let’s say we educate them. That’s empowerment isn’t it? I suppose you could go down the same line with that and see the potential pitfalls: it really does depend on what information you’re educating them with. Teach someone how to make a bomb and… well… I reckon you know where I’m going with that.
“So what do we teach, and more importantly, how do we teach it?”
A very recent experience taught me something very interesting. You may be a parent, or if not, there stands a good chance you’ll be one in the future. One thing you’ll experience, if you haven’t already, is the often amusing way we adults empower children.
For example, imagine giving a child the role of being in charge – let’s say you play a game of shop – and in order to empower the child, you give her the role of manager. Now, watch how eagerly the child takes on this role, and how effortlessly she begins to boss you around; giving you orders and jobs to do. Great fun, and certainly a very useful way to establish leadership potential (and oh boy, are you going to have a fun journey, if that’s the case).
And so, in terms of my recent experience, things were a little different, in that the person I empowered, was in fact 32. As such it did backfire slightly (until I understood it with hindsight that is) in that the person I empowered was a colleague – of equal standing – who started to treat me (20 years her senior) as a subordinate by acting in a ridiculously bossy manner, giving me orders etc., in much the same way as our playacting child.
“Luckily, as confrontation isn’t my style, we didn’t come to blows, and thankfully hindsight has shown me, my habit of empowering people, does occasionally catch me unawares.”
In a sense, in that moment in time, it felt a little like our earlier scenario where we gave someone a gun – to empower them – and all they did was shoot us with it. However, hindsight enlightened me, in terms of how I’d empowered my colleague, and so feeling annoyed over her inappropriate behaviour was only a temporary state.
So here’s the long and the short of the lesson: we must be cautious with who and how we choose to empower. When we’re playing with a child, testing for leadership qualities, all is well. When we’re doing the same thing with adult-children, that really is a different kettle of fish, unless of course, you’re sufficiently armed with empathy and patience… oh and let’s not forget, a good old fashioned dose, of love.
Love is Empowerment.