When you hear the term “enabler” there is usually a negative connotation associated with it. If you know or are associated with someone who has a destructive habit (drinking, gambling or drugs, for example) and we allow it to continue without challenging the problem, we are feeding the problem. By ignoring the problem we can become an enabler of the problem because we enable the problem to continue without a resolution. We can become as culpable for the problem as the person with the problem. In this instance being an enabler is bad but it’s causation has a seemingly good rational:
Enabling behavior is born out of our instinct for love. It’s only natural to want to help someone we love, but when it comes to certain problems — helping is like throwing a match on a pool of gas. – Pam’s Planet
We permit the destructive behavior to continue because we love and care for the person and we don’t want to hurt them by confronting the issue head-on. Negative enabling can also happen within our organizations as well. For example, if we fail to confront people who breed negativity and dissention, we are doing a disservice to the organization and the people within it. By failing to correct the problem, we are enabling it.
As leaders, we are called to care for and serve the people around us; whether it be in our family, our church, our workplace or in our small groups. We are called to show empathy and compassion. We are called to influence and guide. We are called to empower and ENABLE. Oops, there is that word again. However as leaders we are called to be Enablers, but this time we have a positive connotation for the word “Enabler”.
An Enabling leader is passionate about finding ways to actively engage people in working on the issues that affect their organizations and themselves. – About Enabling Leadership.
There are two ways that we as effective leaders can be Enablers.
- Create an environment where others can grow and become the best they can be, to maximize their potential.
- Create an environment where potential leaders can grow to become exceptional leaders themselves.
The first way is to create a culture of openness, communication, empowerment, clear expectations, risk/reward and support. These concepts allow persons to have a greater sense of comfort with their position. We can help them understand their role in the big picture, to help bring meaning to their work and to feel comfortable with the choices that they make in doing their job. Leaders as Enablers, can create more effective and confident employees.
The second way is to create a culture of introspection, challenging thought, empathic consideration and service. We must teach potential leaders to delegate and empower others, to create a culture of accountability and responsibility for decisions made and unmade. We must also train them to communicate and engage those around them. As effective leaders, we are called to create more leaders, to reproduce ourselves. We are called to teach others to be Enablers, to teach them to empower and serve others.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6, (KJV)
So we see that the term “Enabler” can and does have a positive connotation; that it can mean adding value to someone. With apologies to Pam’s Planet, – For effective leaders, Enabling behavior is born out of our instinct for love. It’s only natural to want to help someone we love. Enabling someone is like throwing a match on a pool of gas, igniting the passion for service. Your challenge is to be the Enabler and to empower the people around you, wherever you find yourself.