Early Models of Empowered Leadership
The book of Luke closes with an impossible task. Jesus exhorts his disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. Yet Jesus does not stop there. He tells them not to begin until “you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus instructs them to wait until they are empowered. Therefore, the hinge on which the story of Acts rests is found in Acts 2 where the disciples are empowered to fulfill the mission given by Jesus. In other words, the leadership accounts found in the rest of Acts of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Priscilla, Aquilla, James, and Timothy would not have occurred without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
In a similar way, today’s leaders are called upon to achieve difficult outcomes. This demanding environment has caused organizations to look for ways to get more from their leaders and employees. Researchers are linking various theories, such as transformational leadership, charismatic leadership, servant leadership, and concepts, such as creativity and teams with empowerment.
Principles of Empowerment
There are five principles of leadership empowerment that can be gleaned from Acts 2 which are the following:
- Leadership must be delegated
- Leaders must be equipped
- Empowerment is risky and involves trust
- Empowerment leads to growth in the empowered
- Empowerment impacts others
The results of the divine empowerment of the apostles as described in Acts 2 can be seen in the many that were added at Pentecost. Additionally, the empowerment that took place in Acts 2 led the disciples to begin the task that was set before them in Acts 1: 8, specifically being witnesses for Jesus to the ends of the earth.
To further substantiate the idea that the disciples were empowered at Pentecost, a look at Quinn and Spreitzer’s four characteristics of empowered people in comparison to the account of Peter and the disciples in Acts 2 is in order. The four characteristics put forth by Quinn and Spreitzer in The road to empowerment: Seven questions every leader should consider are:
- Sense of self-determination
- Sense of meaning
- Sense of competence
- Sense of impact
A sense of self-determination is being free to do the work, not being micromanaged. Peter and the disciples in Acts 2 were definitely not being micromanaged. For example, the script for the speech was not written for Peter. Additionally, they were guided by the Holy Spirit to go and do the task. A sense of meaning refers to feeling that what they do is important and to the success of the organization. This sense of meaning can be seen in the chapters following Acts 2. The accounts of Stephen, the Apostles’ time in prison, and the death of James, (the brother of John), is proof to the sense of meaning that these Apostles attached to what they were doing.
A sense of competence is understood as feeling confident that one knows what they are doing and can do the work. Peter demonstrated this in his message weaving Old Testament prophecies into the present in a call to repentance that led to 3,000 being baptized. Again, the passages following Acts 2, and the formation of on-going fellowships outside of Jerusalem, further illustrates the Apostles’ competence resulting from being empowered. Finally, feeling like one has influence and that others will listen is representative of having a sense of impact. Acts 2: 42-47 gives a clear picture of the influence the apostles had on the formation and maturity of the new movement as the people were devoting themselves to the teaching of the Apostles.
What is the Difference Between Divine and Psychological Empowerment?
However, divine empowerment is differentiated from psychological empowerment by the sacred nature of the message. But that is not all; it is the filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 4) that empowered the apostles to fulfill God’s task for them. Since divine empowerment is more than just a message, today’s business, government, and civic leaders can be divinely empowered regardless of context or message. This is a significant way in which divine empowerment does not fit into the concept of psychological empowerment used in today’s leadership theories.
The application is clear for today’s Christian leader as all are called to be Christ’s witness in the world regardless of work context. Christian leaders cannot be what they are called to be unless they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Researchers also state that people need to want to be empowered, and this was true for the apostles as they waited in Jerusalem just as they were instructed by Jesus. This is the organic, bottoms-up aspect of empowerment when the individual allows the process of empowerment to take place and receives the delegation, equipping, risk, growth, and impact of empowerment. From this divine empowerment, today’s Christian leader will have a strong sense of determination, meaning, competence, and influence so that the leader can “spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2: 14) in whatever context the leader is situated.