The Leader as Enabler

June 17, 2021

by Management Dynamics

The Leader as Enabler

Leaders can be one of two things – they can either be an enabler, or an interference to their team members.  Very few leaders set out intending to be an interference, yet they can be one of the most significant interferences a team can experience.  They actually stand in the way of the team achieving high performance.  So what kinds of things does an interfering leader do?
At their best, they micro-manage and are a bottleneck for decision making. All of course with the positive intention of maintaining control on what the team is accountable for delivering.  At their worst, they steal the credit for the team’s work. They only engage in performance conversations when they absolutely have to (once per year, for example). Or they are an absent leader – one who is never there when the team needs.  These behaviours will act as a brick wall between the team and high performance.  At best, all a team with this kind of leader will achieve is mediocrity and that will be by accident or because the team members are individually high performing. What they are unable to tap into is the power of team.  This is the multiplier, the factor that is essential to high performance.  No high performing team got there despite an interfering leader.
If you want a team to achieve high performance, you need to focus on how the leader acts as an enabler. This means clearly giving the team the resources they need, and then getting out of the way and clearing the path of obstacles as they arise.

The Enabling Leader

An enabling leader knows that the team needs a purpose – why are they a team and what higher purpose are they serving? They will constantly remind the team of this purpose.  Enabling leaders will create high amounts of clarity – what is the team accountable for delivering, by when and with whom? They have routines which help the team to operate in a smooth, highly communicative way without being over-done.  Enabling leaders also create great relationships with high levels of trust and psychological safety.  They need to manage the team’s energy levels and look out for each other when the going gets tough. Team resilience has never been so important in getting teams to high performance.
In this enabling mode, there is no room for large egos.  The leader is a servant to the team.  They are there to give the team what it needs to get the job done. To enable the team to smash the ceiling of what they thought was possible, celebrate success when they have it and find ways to maintain high performance once they’ve achieved it.


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