Leadership sets the tone for workplace culture. Do you agree?

Senior leaders must model the behaviours they want emulated across the organisation. This is especially crucial when it comes to empowerment.

Whenever I begin to work with a retailer, I have a thorough stakeholder meeting with the senior leaders. This is especially important when I am facilitating ‘The Ultimate Area Leader’ program as this is where the greatest variation lies when it comes to empowerment. This usually entails meeting with the head of retail (or similar) and the head of people and culture.

I take these leaders through a series of questions to get a very clear understanding of where the organisation is at and, more importantly, what decisions area leaders can and can’t make, and what is expected of them in their roles.

This is especially important to ensure that I am not teaching the area leaders strategies that they will not be able to implement as this would be setting them up to fail.

This is where I find there is often a disconnect.

Empowered leaders who can make key decisions inspire engagement and innovation. Yet many struggle with mixed messages around authority. While told they are empowered, they face limits in practice. This disconnect stems from unclear expectations and poor communication from the top.

Senior retail leaders believe their area leaders are empowered to make decisions and expect that they are. However, when I begin to work with the area leader team, their perception is that they are very limited on what they can and can’t make decisions on within their stores.

Many have made comments in the training such as ‘We would never be allowed to do that!’.

This lack of role clarity disempowers retail leaders. It breeds frustration, risk aversion and stagnation.

So what can senior teams do?

First, align on what decisions can be made at each level of leadership. Document this for transparency. Ensure leaders have the capability and confidence to exercise their authority.

Secondcommunicate expectations consistently. Reinforce leaders’ autonomy to make prescribed judgements. Offer mentorship on exercising empowerment.

Third, resist overreach. Once empowered, avoid second-guessing leaders’ decisions unfairly. Evaluate leaders on outcomes, not process.

Finally, model empowerment yourself. Enable junior leaders to stretch their skills. Lead by example – not just words.

This topic is a great conversation with your senior leadership team to ensure there is no disconnect here and to check to see what decisions can be made further down the roles. Leading by example is key to unlocking leadership potential at every level.