16 Jan
Open your mind to others to empower

Empowerment is a journey that unfolds as you begin to work more inclusively with others in your business. I wish to suggest two points for your consideration. Firstly, people empowerment is driven by thinking differently about people and, secondly, empowerment comes from relaxing some boundaries so that how you operate, the “real you”, is made strategically visible.

In this sense, empowerment requires a way of thinking that sees the people we live and work with as walking, sleeping, dreaming sources of incredible potential – natural treasures to be unearthed. They have depth and talent not fully known to either you or them. And therein lies a wonderful mystery; in knowing them and in working with them, you are a powerful catalyst. And their growth, in turn, triggers something equal and positive in you. Delight. Innovation. Discovery. Hope. World changing.

An incredible way for entrepreneurs to empower others is through inclusivity. To use an equestrian analogy, it is to stretch your hand and help someone mount the stallion you are already on. Then on your outride, contextualize the scenery and let them witness your reflexes and decisions while you cover familiar and uncharted terrain on the journeytoward achieving specific objectives. Inevitably, vary your trot and finally reach your destination to share the victory of achieving a challenging task. On the journey, remain open to dialogue – for clarifications and questions – but caution against the belief that one-size-fits-all, bearing in mind that absolute answers are often sought when people are learning something completely new and are out of their comfort zones. The idea is to co-learn as fresh perspectives are gained and new scenarios not previously considered are explored. In short, you are being real and you are creating a non-judgmental learning environment where knowledge, skill and creativity can prosper.

During empowerment employees should be safe to risk, be flexible, be curious and invent. In turn, this intensifies into new spirals of learning and co-learning, which can benefit your business tremendously.

Madeleine van der Steege,

Sneak preview – (Part 2) Marie’s Story“ I had one prayer. It was an early morning on my way to my work as HIV-Aids Lay Counselor Coordinator. The hill in front of me was very steep, and summer time in the Cape is not made for hard walking. From deep within me came the prayer “I want to grow and develop more”. It was an ache inside me that I had ever since I left school. It was a hunger to know more, and to be more than just another Coloured woman with a fractured past, an unfinished education and only legs for transport. The beginning of the answer to that prayer happened unexpectedly…”

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Open your mind to others to empower


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7 responses to “Open your mind to others to empower

  1. nandinibedi

    February 4, 2013 at 16:45

    Well Mads, the choice of your words leads me straight M.K Gandhi ( also known as ‘Mahatma’ – the great soul’). I recently saw a debate at the Jaipur literary festival online. One of the speakers pointed out that we have forgotten what Mahatma Gandhi stood for – self leadership in this case would be beginning with oneself instead of pointing fingers at others.Remember it was Mahatma Gandhi who said “be the change you want t see in the world”. And there’s no better example I can think of than ‘intelligent disobedience’ than him. Unfortunately I think the speaker at the the lit fest. is right. It’s a legacy we don’t value any more.


  2. nandinibedi

    January 20, 2013 at 21:24

    I read your piece with interest. Through your images of the empowering process, you exude a quiet confidence. Empowerment is also hard to come by in most situations in India. There, it is hierarchy that stops it. And access. Fear, i think also plays a big part. Thank you for this reflective, image rich post! Nandini


    • Mads

      January 26, 2013 at 23:09

      Thank you Nandini. Can you share with us your thoughts on what legacy was left behind by those unique individuals who provided rich examples of hierarchy in India being transcended by self leadership, values and their “Intelligent disobedience”.
      How can inclusivity and opportunity seep deeper into the fiber of those higher up (in India), despite hierarchy being a real buffer?


  3. Mads

    January 18, 2013 at 10:28

    Thank you Paul. You are right. People’s apparent lack of inclusivity, openness, involvement or generosity can seem downright selfish. I recently had such an encounter with someone. But it got me thinking how fear holds people back. Fear to trust. Fear to be interdependent. Somehow it’s counter survival in the western world. Independence and self sufficiency is sadly over rated and was over rewarded. I really enjoy the openness and inclusivity made possible by the social era but values and behavior just has to catchup. You know – share, include, empower for the shear goodness and beauty of it – not just for “whats in it for me”.


    • Nita Korsten

      January 29, 2013 at 22:26

      …at the other hand it’s great when people discover that embracing diversity and acting inclusive is actually beneficial for themselves as well!


      • Mads

        January 30, 2013 at 12:47

        Yes! Thats the real point Nita:)


  4. Paul Jones

    January 18, 2013 at 09:41

    I finally got to read your article on “Empowerment” – very good. Unfortunately it’s a concept we don’t get. The reason being is we are selfish. Companies i.e. managers “empower” people for selfish reasons, as it suites them. When these people outgrow the company and leave, it become a problem. Very few leaders, including church and religious leaders actually understand that empowerment is a universal principle. We must do it not because we “want” to but because we “have” to.



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