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Blog: On Leading by Empowerment

Manny Becerra as a child

August 2016

This post is a continuation of my topic from last month: On Leadership Balance and supplements some thoughts I shared earlier this year on information flow.

I've been working since I was fairly young, some—in the US—would say, too young, however, my family didn't come from much so my siblings and I each did our part to help contribute at home early on while also taking care of business at school, which was our primary job. Over the years, I've seen my fair share of leadership styles from various bosses; the most common style I experienced was that which I would label as, lead by fear. This style is sometimes known as the tough types, however, I would say that tough types, in this case, is a misnomer as one can still be tough or challenging, yet not be feared by their coworkers, subordinates, etc. for simply trying to do their job.

Do you lead by instilling fear or inspiring your coworkers?

Another way to lead — mind you, not the only way either — is to take an empowerment approach. This approach acknowledges a few things, namely, but not limited to: (1) you, as a leader, don't know everything, (2) can't do everything (to the optimum), and (3) respect your coworkers that you value what they bring to the table, and acknowledge their potential for continuous growth, including your own.

We are creatures of habit. Lead by example, and in due time, you may see the desired shift in your work environment amongst all ranks that reflects what you are demonstrating.

When I think about why I haven't witnessed this latter leadership style (empowerment) as much as the former (fear), I arrive at various contributing factors, one of them often being that we, people, are creatures of habit. For too long, our societal work culture has, generally speaking, favored the tough style approach that instills fear. While that approach gets some results, it's unsustainable and it can send another message to coworkers: a message that communicates, for example, "I don't value you as whole human being worthy of common decency and respect".

Work cultures are often set and reinforced by leadership even when every member has some responsibility in contributing to their work culture in one form or another, which is why it's critical to lead by example as an agent for positive, culturual change in the workplace, by extension, society.

I do everything possible to intentionally create the type of work environment that leads to a culture shift centered on inspiration, respect, self-discovery and continuous growth, and compassion; in other words, leaderhip through empowering my coworkers.

Before witnessing empowerment leadership at Tesla, I experienced it through my immediate family and Latinx community as a child. So, growing up, I knew leadership was possible under a different manner than fear-based, yet was initially bewildered as to why it wasn't more common than leading by instilling fear in the workplace. I'll unpack this statement for another post for another day.

Being in a leadership position myself now, however, I do everything possible to intentionally create the type of workplace environment that leads to a culture centered on inspiration, respect, self-discovery and continuous growth; diversity in idea, though and life experience; and, compassion; in other words, leaderhip through empowering my coworkers.

I first experienced empowerment leadership through my immediate family and my Latinx community as a child.

Sound off: what leadership and collaboration style have you found works best for you and your coworkers?

Lead on.


I am human, a father, and a problem solver: a tech and people leader with a passion and proven track-record in building and leading compassionate, productive teams—remote and on-site—within a continuous learning culture. My teams and I champion usable, inclusive digital products and online experiences. My work, passion and intentions also intersect with advising small businesses and political campaigns, life-long learning, outdoor advocacy, community building, and uplifting others. Learn more about Manny