Finding Empowerment in a Support Role

I conducted a training recently for Executive Assistants – and one of the main topics we focused on was finding empowerment in a support role.  And I began to think about how many people I know personally that are struggling with feeling dis-empowered in their jobs.

As our culture shifts with more and more millennials entering and rising in the workforce, the importance of feeling empowered and having autonomy at work is becoming increasingly important.  However, I think many people don’t realize that they can choose to find empowerment and the ability to lead without being in a senior leadership position.

Depending on your company’s culture, that may be easier said than done, but the good news is, it is very possible!

Let’s first look at feeling empowered.  How can you actually achieve this in the workplace?

  • We find our greatest empowerment in recognizing that we always have the ability to choose. 

When we are in positions that support others, it can often feel like we don’t have a say in our daily tasks and experiences.  But these feelings all begin with our mindset and perspective.  First of all, I’d like to propose that we never HAVE to do anything.  I know I used to be guilty of using this “victim word” all the time – “I have to get this done for my boss,” or “I have to be at work so early tomorrow,” or “I have to work 50 hours this week to get all this stuff done” and so on.  But the truth is – “I choose to get this done for my boss because I want him to be happy with my performance” (or “I choose to get this done for my boss because I would rather do this work than lose my job”) and “I choose to be at work early tomorrow because I want to be included in this special meeting”, and “I choose to work 50 hours this week because I want to adhere to a standard of excellence.”

We always have choices available to us.  We could choose to not do the tasks thrown on our plates, we could choose to not work overtime, we could choose to ignore our supervisor’s instructions.  Some people do choose these things – and some of them lose their jobs or some of them leave and find something they like better – the point is, there’s always choices. We may not always like our choices, but they still exist.

One of those choices that we always have available to us is our attitude.  One of the greatest language shifts I learned about empowering myself at work is to stop saying, “My boss/co-worker frustrated me” and to instead say, “I frustrated myself by expecting my boss/co-worker to be any different than how I know he/she is.”   In the first scenario, my bosses or co-workers can choose at any time to ruin my day.  In the second scenario, I am in control of my day and it is up to me to decide whether or not I want to feel frustrated.

When we begin to change our “victim language” into “empowered language”, our mindsets will follow our language.  And then as our mindsets become more empowered, our behaviors and actions follow.

In the same sense as creating our own empowerment at our jobs, we can also choose to lead people, regardless of our level of authority.

There are several GREAT books on this topic – I would highly recommend, “How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge” by Clay Scroggins.

But there are several practical ways that you can begin working on this now:

  • Develop your emotional intelligence

Listening to others with empathy is an incredibly beneficial skill in gaining trust and influence.  Emotions often drive performance and understanding how those around you are feeling and reacting to their work is an important piece to leading, regardless of your authority level.

  • Become solution-oriented

People want to follow people who take responsibility and ownership for their outcomes.  If you help to create an environment that is inclusive and that focuses on identifying problems and brainstorming solutions, you will be seen as a leader as you champion those solutions.

  • Be passionate about your work and your ideas

When we show up to work excited and motivated, when we stay committed to a high standard of excellence, no matter how big or small the task – it is infectious to those around us.  Positivity begets positivity.  Commit to a positive attitude and share your passion for your ideas with others.  People will follow those who posses excitement and compelling vision.

  • Mentor other employees

One of the greatest skills of a leader is raising up other leaders and multiplying themselves.  No matter what position you are in, you are capable of mentoring, supporting, teaching and challenging other employees around you.  Ask yourself this question on a weekly basis, “How can I help the employees around me achieve their goals?”

  • Focus on the collective good

When we are motivated by the collective good, as opposed to being self-focused, it shows.  Take an interest in your co-workers, support them, and support the values and mission of the company.  Consistently ask yourself, “What role can I play in helping the company grow to it’s full potential?”


How do you find empowerment and leadership opportunities at your workplace?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments!



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