To empower means “to give somebody power or authority” and also “to give somebody a sense of confidence or self-esteem”.
When I joined AIESEC, initially, we were told that a good leader has 4 qualities, i.e. being solution oriented, a world citizen, knowing how to communicate effectively, and being able to empower others.
The value that caught my immediate attention was “empowering others”. It was difficult for me to understand how does a person empower other people in everyday life.
I was having a rough week back then. I remember sitting on a bench alone at the Gurudwara near my home when an 11-year-old girl walked up to me with a big smile on her face. She asked me what it was that I was so worried about. I told her everything that I thought was wrong with the world and how I could not do anything to make it a better place.
She held my hand and said, “There are no great deeds. Only small deeds, done with great love.”
I was completely taken aback and amused by how an eleven-year-old girl could teach me such a valuable lesson about life.
We may not stop fights or serve those in the refugee camps today, but we can do something for someone every day.
Not only does that mean you are not insignificant, but it means that you can, in fact, change someone’s world every single day and be a leader.
I once read it somewhere that a leader isn’t always the person who leads or someone who is working for a refugee camp or guiding 10 people in an organization. A leader is a person who, by just being himself, makes an impact on the other person’s life. That ultimately adds to changing the world for the better.
“See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see.”
– Dr. Wayne Dyer
The inspiring and kind people who I’ve met throughout my AIESEC journey are incredibly influential leaders. It is worthwhile understanding their thoughts, the way they approach life and, more specifically, the way they treat others.
Meeting them has had a profound effect on my life.
One of the lessons I learned through my interaction with them was the importance of empowering others. And to my surprise, it can be done easily, with 5 basic habits:
1. Don’t criticize without offering help.
Every one of us has the magic power of empowering other people simply by generously giving praise and showing encouragement to help them realize their underlying potential.
“Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement.”
– Dale Carnegie
Even if something can be improved, criticizing just for the sake of it, without offering any support will not make any difference. But if you show development points, and offer help or suggestions on how they can be improved, that is empowerment.
2. Drop the judgment.
Empowering others is to understand that every person is different and we can’t judge others based on our conditions or beliefs.
Just because someone doesn’t have the same ambitions as you, or even if they don’t learn as fast as you, you should still support them without judgment, but trying to place yourself in their shoes. Maybe they just have a different learning curve, or they absorb information in different ways.
Or maybe, they didn’t have the same opportunities as you and had to settle with a less ambitious career.
For instance, in our daily life, we meet the cashier at the supermarket, the waiter at the café, the guy who pumps your gas, the doorman, the street cleaner, and the janitor. These people are not transparent. They are people just like us.
We can all make them feel worth it and cared for, just by smiling at these people, inquiring about their wellbeing, thanking them for the services they provide, and wishing them a good day. It can make a lot of difference in their life, receiving some kindness.
Empowering others means being happy for them, and praising them for their accomplishments, whatever they are. Praising them in any way possible. Always.
3. Empowering others means empowering yourself.
It’s only after you’ve conquered what lies within you can you uplift other people. You have to be kind to yourself first. Pull yourself together every time life throws you down. Empowered people empower others.
Impacting the life of someone else sure is special, but first, you have to make an impact in your own life.
4. Show more appreciation.
“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit. We cannot flower and grow without it.”
– Jess Lair
To empower someone, you have to help the person feel proud of the good things they do. And the simplest way to achieve that is to express your appreciation for everything that person does for you, large or small. This again encourages people, as they know they’re doing well, and wish to improve more every day.
It is time for us to start looking more deeply into the good of other people and tell them, “Thank you. I really appreciate that.”
5. Let them make their own decisions
Hold back from giving answers to your small brother. Let him decide what should be the solution to the problem in front of him. Help him understand the importance of being a good decision maker.
And not just your brother, but anyone you meet. We have a general human nature of giving instruction to other people as if our way is the best way. Stop for a while.
Hold space open for creative thinking. This will require discipline and patience on your part. Provide hints or prompts to help steer someone in the right direction. Allowing them to discover the answer will empower them in future situations.
Empowering others also empowers us.
Empowering others makes the world a better place. It’s one of the most important acts of kindness one can do for his fellow men.
Every nod, every smile, every interaction can completely change the course of someone else’s day. We can either wield that influence in a positive or negative way. The people who I met chose the former.
Smile at each other. Offer some kind words and a genuine caring for those around you. Build people up, instead of knocking them down.
It just takes tiny acts throughout your day. Create these habits with everyone you interact with to empower the world.
If you want to know more about how we can empower each other and make a difference, take a moment to read about these “9 volunteers who are making a difference across the globe”.
And if you’re curious about how AIESEC can help you become a better leader, find out more about our programs at aiesec.in/students.
Studying bachelor’s in biotechnology, Aayushi is a really passionate person, who loves to read and travel. She believes people, places, and stories have the power to change anyone and help them understand the purpose of life.