CEO Insider

Leadership success requires the opposite of I Me Mine

Shantha Mohan Ph.D.

How empowering your organization is crucial: George Harrison wrote the song “I Me Mine” just as the Beatles were breaking up. In the book of the same name, George writes, “Suddenly I looked around and everything I could see was relative to my ego, like ‘that’s my piece of paper’ and ‘that’s my flannel’ or ‘give it to me’ or ‘I am’.”

“I Me Mine” are the words of those who always put themselves ahead of others. These words remind us not to hoard all the power and decision-making as a leader. Leaders empower their teams by sharing responsibilities, providing growth opportunities, and fostering a collaborative environment. Outstanding leaders create more leaders. 

An organization’s culture determines the degree of empowerment. There is a high level of empowerment in an organization with psychological safety, team ownership, and appreciation for the employees’ intrinsic motivation. Every leader in the organization, from the CEO down to the first-level manager, understands how to use the power of empowerment.

How do you know if your organization is highly empowered? I propose two key metrics. One metric focuses on customers, and the other on employees. 

How well are your customers served?

Net Promoter Score (NPS) can tell you how much your customers like your company or your product or service. The survey usually has a couple of questions. One that asks, “How likely are you to recommend our company/product to a friend or colleague?” It is followed up with a question that asks for the reason behind your answer to the first. 

While NPS is a good barometer, it is not indicative of the level of empowerment in your organization. For that, you need to look at the rate at which customer tickets are resolved. In an empowered organization, customer satisfaction is everyone’s business. When a support ticket is opened, the customer service team jumps on it. When a simple answer cannot resolve it, the support teams reach out to the product teams right away. If your organization is truly customer oriented, the product teams treat a customer service request as critical as the next product and prioritize it. In an empowered organization, the development teams coach and train the customer service team to enhance their product knowledge. 

When I was running global software engineering teams, my team members knew how to balance the tension between getting a release out and helping the service team on a problem that required looking deep in the code to figure out what was wrong. It was all hands on the deck when a customer reported a critical issue. Getting to the root of the problem and providing workarounds until we could deliver a complete solution was priority number one. The teams knew how to collaborate, which showed how well they were empowered. 

Use the service ticket resolution rates to understand how well your teams are empowered. A high level of empowerment leads to a high rate of resolution of customer tickets.

Another related metric is the number of problems found in your product or service by the customer. The higher the issues, the lower the empowerment because the employees were not sufficiently invested or empowered to produce a quality product or service.

How engaged are your employees?

Under a leader with the “I Me Mine” attitude, we find a lot of attrition. Employees lose their spirits and self-esteem and leave the organization. Leaders who consciously learn to delegate and empower their team members bring out their best. They grow their teams and create a thriving work environment.

Just like NPS, you can measure employee NPS (eNPS). It looks at the score generated by asking whether the employee would recommend their company to a friend or acquaintance as a place of employment.

Periodic surveys can help you gauge the health of your employee engagement. If you want to measure the level of empowerment, be sure to ask questions related to psychological safety and autonomy.

Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, introduced the concept of team psychological safety for interpersonal risk-taking. Employees feel safe about taking calculated risks and fail in an organization that promotes psychological safety. They don’t hesitate to bring up tough topics for discussions. They collaborate and support each other.  

Here are some typical survey items related to psychological safety:

  • I can bring up difficult questions and not be adversely affected.
  • My failures are viewed as learning experiences, and I am comfortable accepting and reporting my mistakes.
  • I am comfortable taking calculated risks in approaching a problem.
  • I am comfortable asking for help when I need it to do my job.
  • My teammates are supportive.
  • I can be myself, and diversity is valued.
  • I get feedback on how I am doing in my position regularly.

In an organization that believes in empowerment, there is a high degree of autonomy, which promotes the intrinsic motivation that exists in all of us. We all want to know that we control our destination and prefer self-directed execution.

Here are some typical survey items that are related to autonomy:

  • I know the expectations of my job. 
  • I can use my creativity to solve problems.
  • I have a lot of say in how my job is done.
  • I do not have to go through multiple gates to change an aspect of my task.
  • I am given the training needed to do my job.
  • If I see I can do something better, I don’t require approval to change the approach.

In measuring employee engagement, be sure to give importance to the questions related to psychological safety and autonomy, two categories that can tell you how well you empower your employees. 

Be the leader who eschews “I Me Mine”

Provide psychological safety and autonomy to your employees. Reinforce your values by awarding employees for taking ownership, even when they fail. Make sure your organization understands the core principles and values by which they can function—guard rails, fog lights, whatever you want to call them. Then, let them go and flourish. Empowering your organization creates scale and makes you an outstanding leader.


Written by Shantha Mohan Ph.D.
Have you read?
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Living Your Values as a Key for Resilient Leadership – A Conversation with Mike Ward (CEO – IKEA Canada) by Craig Dowden.
How to Build a Leadership Team that Delivers Great Results by Michael Dattoli.
Making Difficult Decisions Easily Based On Value Systems by Rene Pardo.

Shantha Mohan Ph.D.
Shantha Mohan Ph.D. is an Executive In Residence at the Integrated Innovation Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, she was a global software engineering leader and entrepreneur, cofounding Retail Solutions Inc., a retail analytics company. Shantha also has over 20 years of experience focused on mission-critical systems to support semiconductor and other high-value-added manufacturing. She is the author of Roots and Wings - Inspiring stories of Indian Women in Engineering and is a co-author of Demystifying AI for The Enterprise - A Playbook for Business Value and Digital Transformation. Her book, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles was published by Taylor & Francis in May 2022.


Shantha Mohan is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.