#12 The Law of Empowerment

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John C. Maxwell

#12 The Law of Empowerment - Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others

Henry Ford was a revolutionary innovator in the automobile industry and a legend in American business history.  The Model T was so efficiently manufactured it enabled it to be sold at a low enough price point so that anyone making a good salary could afford one.  It was such a profound accomplishment it changed the face of twentieth-century American life.  


Henry Ford did not embrace the Law of Empowerment.  He was so in love with the Model T he never wanted to change it or improve it - and he did not want anyone else to tinker with it either.  A group of designers surprised him one day by presenting a prototype of an improved model.  Instead of thanking the team, Henry Ford tore the doors off the hinges and had the car destroyed.   

For 20 years, the Ford Motor Company offered only 1 design, which Ford personally developed.  By the time Henry Ford allowed his team to offer a new car to the public, the Model A, it had less technical innovations and was incredibly far behind its competitors.  As a result, Ford’s market share went from 50% down to just 28%.

Henry Ford was not an empowering leader.  He undermined his leaders and looked over the shoulders of his people.  He demonstrated a lack of trust in his people by creating a department to check up on his employees and direct their private lives. 

This also applied to his son Edsel who had worked at the company since he was a boy.  As Henry lost his way, Edsel worked very hard to keep the company going.  If not for Edsel’s hard work the Ford Motor Company would likely have gone out of business in the 1930’s.  This was eventually recognized when Henry made Edsel President of the company while at the same time backing other leaders and undermined him.  Henry did the same to other promising leaders as they rose up the ranks.  As a result, the Ford Motor Company kept losing its best executives.  The few that stayed did so because of Edsel as they believed when Henry died the torch would be passed to him.  In 1943, Edsel died at age forty-nine.  


Edsel’s oldest son, Henry Ford II, was nearly complete with his service in the Navy and rushed back to Michigan to take over the company.  Upon his return, he faced stiff opposition from his grandfather’s entrenched followers.  However, after 2 years he received backing from the board of directors and convinced his grandfather to step down so he could become President.  

When the younger Henry took over the company it hadn’t made a profit in fifteen years and was losing $1 million dollars a day.  He quickly realized to turn things around he needed good leaders.  First, Colonel Charles “Tex” Thornton was added followed by Ernie Breech.  Between the two of them they brought over 150 outstanding leaders from General Motors.  By 1949, Ford Motor Company was profitable, selling over 1 million vehicles including Fords, Mercury’s, and Lincoln’s.  


If Henry Ford II had lived by the Law of Empowerment, Ford would likely have eventually overtaken GM.  Instead, the younger Ford began to feel threatened by the talented executives and began to worry about his position - built more on name than influence.  As a result, Henry began pitting executives against each other.  Anytime an executive gained power and influence, Henry would undercut them by moving them to a position with less clout or publicly humiliate them.  One of those executives was Lee Iacocca who stated after leaving the company, “Henry Ford, as I would learn firsthand, had a nasty habit of getting rid of strong leaders.”

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what needs done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” - Theodore Roosevelt 


The people’s capacity to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.  When a leader can’t or won’t empower others, they create barriers within the organization that people cannot overcome.  

Why do some leader’s violate the Law of Empowerment?  

  1. Desire for job security
  2. Resistance to change
  3. Lack of self-worth


Only secure leaders are able to give themselves away.

“Great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit.” - Mark Twain

The very greatest things happen only when you give others the credit. 


To push people down, you have to go down with them.  


A key to empowering others is high belief in people.  Empowerment is POWERFUL - not only for the person being developed, but also for the mentor.  That is the impact of the Law of Empowerment.  

#12 The Law of Empowerment - Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others

Here is a link to obtain this wonderful read.

I hope this book provides you with guidance along your journey.