The Ultimate Source Of Empowerment


Jim walked into Walt’s office unexpectedly.  “Can we talk?” said Jim.  Walt hesitantly responded: “Sure”.  As Jim closed the door Walt’s nervousness heightened.  He was unhappy, but did not think Jim was unhappy with him.

Jim proceeded to talk.  “It seems you are unhappy here Walt.  Now don’t get nervous.  I am not firing you, but I am concerned.

You have always done a great job and I certainly don’t want to lose you.  Yet I also don’t want you to stay if you are really that unhappy.  Here are two cards from the recruiters I trust the most.  One of them got me this job as a matter of fact.  I told them you may be calling and to take good care of you.  I am happy to talk with you about what is going on and support you in any way I can.

Personally, I hope you stay, but I know a bright guy like you has options.  It is important for you to know what is out there.  Please keep me posted.  My door is always open.”

They shook hands and Jim left.  Walt was stunned.

An Important Leadership Lesson

Jim happened to be my dad and this was a story he shared one night over dinner.  I never forgot it because he taught me a very valuable lesson about managing and leading people.

People always have a choice even if they do not see that they do.  A critical role of every leader is to bring people to choice.

You can be a victim of your circumstances or you can choose who you are going to be in the face of them.  There are even times when you can choose new circumstances.  As a leader, if you really want to empower someone, the best way to do that is to guide them in seeing the choices they do have and support them in choosing for themselves.

On the surface sending Walt to recruiters may seem unusual, or even extreme, but there’s more to the story.

While Walt was very bright and talented he had also developed a bit of a bad attitude.

Jim had tried many ways to reach him, but was not getting through.  Instead of talking to the people who could do something about his complaints, he was just hints to his peers that he was thinking of leaving.

He took what seemed like an unusual action because he thought Walt had great leadership potential.  He often stood up for others, but seemed to be having a hard time asking for what he wanted to be satisfied.  He also knew that for as long as Walt thought the “grass was greener” somewhere else he was not likely to choose to give 100% in his current job.  He wanted him to choose and wanted him to know he respected him and would support him regardless of his choice.

By taking the discomfort of having to “sneak around” out of the equation for Walt, a constructive conversation between them began and a bond of trust was formed that carried them for many years to come.

Walt (not his real name) was one of 4 men who conference called my dad every Christmas for many years just to say thank you.  He had mentored them throughout their careers whether they were working for him or even at the same company or not.

Their bond of trust was based on one simple principle:

We are 100% responsible for who we are, what we do and what we have.

The real source of empowerment for any one of us is to make conscious choices to create the life we want.

My dad would have been 82 this year.  His last message to me was the genesis for Random Acts of Leadership.  Sharing this story of one of his many acts of leadership is my way of remembering him.  If you would like to read the story behind the idea click here.


Enter A Comment

Stan Faryna   |   05 April 2013   |   Reply

Your story is empowering and uplifting, Susan. Thank you for sharing this powerful memory of your father with us.

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Susan Mazza   |   10 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks so much Stan. Enjoyed your article, too!

Nagarjuna Reddy   |   06 April 2013   |   Reply

“Leadership is not ON the people, its WITH the people.” True. Previously heard. But got an example now through You. Thank You So Much Susan for sharing..

Susan Mazza   |   10 April 2013   |   Reply

Yes, Nagajuna leadership is most definitely WITH the people.

J Giordano   |   09 April 2013   |   Reply

Thank you for sharing. It reminds me of when a former boss had a “leadership” talk with me. He did lead me down a new career path when he realized a potential in me and that changed my life course in a direction that has been very fruitful. I commend your father for seeing others before his own self.

Susan Mazza   |   10 April 2013   |   Reply

Those talks can be difficult to hear, but as you share they can also be life changing for the better. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Rajeev   |   11 April 2013   |   Reply

It is indeed remarkable to notice how a selfless act through leadership can do wonders in shaping someone’s career and future. What your dad did was truly unconventional but inspirational too. Its a rarity to find people of such principles and ethics in the professional world. Glad you shared the story.

Susan Mazza   |   11 April 2013   |   Reply

It is rare indeed Rajeev and I consider myself very fortunate to have my dad’s guidance. Thanks for your comment.

Sharon Gilmour-Glover   |   11 April 2013   |   Reply

Susan, thanks so much for sharing this story. It illustrates so beautifully that we have choices, we aren’t victims and that we create our own reality to large extent, through our choices.

It came at a timely moment for me. I needed the reminder that regardless of the situation, I have choices and I am 100% responsible for who I am, what I do and what I have.


Susan Mazza   |   11 April 2013   |   Reply

Good to hear it was a timely reminder for you Sharon. I don’t think this is something I will ever stop needing to be reminded of!

Judy Shenouda   |   15 April 2013   |   Reply

Susan, I’m delighted that a colleague on LinkedIn shared this article. What is most inspiring is the wonderful way in which you are honoring your dad. I recently lost my mother who well into my adult years provided endless encouragement. She, too, plays a key role in my blog entries(http://judithshenouda.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/ill-see-you-again-2/).
Honor thy mother and father — still as true today as in bygone times. Keep up the great work!

Susan Mazza   |   15 April 2013   |   Reply

I am glad you found your way here Judy. Thanks so much for sharing your mom with us.

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