During my career of 40+ years I kept wondering what having real power actually means. In hierarchical organizations power seems to be associated to your position on the org chart. The higher up you are, the more power you are supposed to have. I have seen managers who took pride in the fact that getting their approval for a certain project was really hard. They created an aura of being a „tough guy“. That was part of their identity and it created fears when employees needed their consent. Having the power to say no was seen as strong and impactful and they enjoyed using that power frequently. Don’t get me wrong, sending a proposal back with comments and asking for it to be revised can be a very useful process which usually results in an even better offering. We should always be conscious of the fact that our job as leaders is to support the creativity of our teams. I have seen too much self-censoring where people had great ideas but did not follow through because they were „convinced“ that they would never be approved.

In the end, a real decision maker needs to have some „ink in the pen“, the ability to sign off, the ability to assign a budget and resources to a project. Often, we immediately think of the risks that might be associated when we approve something, but there is also risk when we reject something. It might take time until we realize that risk. When a proposal is approved, the team that created it feels empowered and rewarded. Positive decisions are a great way to increase the mood of an organization. Let’s use it!

What was your last approval you gave and how did you feel when you made it?