Unlock your most important leadership superpower

Jackie Colburn
5 min readJun 12, 2024


There’s one trait every great leader has in common. I observe it when I facilitate Design Sprints and strategic workshops. It’s the same whether I’m supporting a more tactical team or a more strategic team. The company size may vary, the leadership levels may vary, but regardless of these variables, one thing is the same: empowered teams consistently outperform their counterparts — and an empowered team is only possible with the right leadership behaviors.

You likely landed here because you’re committed to leading better. That’s already a win! In this article, my goal is to help you unlock the superpowers that will help you cultivate more empowered teams. This advice is rooted in my work as a facilitator and the observations I’ve made working with teams of all types and sizes, as well as their leaders.

What Leaders of Empowered Team Stand to Gain

The most successful teams I work with have clarity, confidence, and permission to explore. They might need to seek buy-in from their leaders at some point, but they have the autonomy to make decisions and develop a point of view.

Conversely, teams that aren’t empowered get a bit stuck on what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. There’s typically an element of fear involved here — whether it’s of repercussions from doing something “wrong,” or a lack of autonomy to think or act for themselves without close oversight.

If your team is operating in this state, they probably aren’t exploring big possibilities or pushing the work forward in a meaningful way.

So, what can leaders do to create more empowered, decisive, and confident teams? It all starts with clarity.

How to Lead with Clarity

As a leader, your job is to give your team enough information to push the momentum in the right direction. Here are a few techniques you can practice to start leading with more clarity today:

1. Rally your team around a clear sense of purpose

Teams typically struggle if they don’t understand how their work ladders up to the big picture. To combat this, you’ll need to cultivate a team that understands why they exist and who they serve beyond the broader organizational purpose.

This clarity alone can go a long way in energizing a team and helping them make the right decisions when it comes to the day-to-day. It can also support planning and work efforts because when teams know their purpose and keep that front and center, they’re less likely to get caught up in details or drama.

To align your team around a clear purpose, I recommend bringing them together to craft a Purpose Statement collectively.

Begin by orienting them to the organization’s purpose, then shift the focus to the unique value they contribute to the overall success of the org. Ask your team to think about their impact on both internal and external stakeholders. Identify the unique attributes that set them apart and the skills and capabilities that make them indispensable.

The statement should hold up over time and be something that is more about the reason the team exists rather than the specific work they do. Start it with “We exist to…” then complete the sentence by leveraging the following inputs.

  • Who does your team impact, both internally and externally, and how?
  • What are the unique attributes of your team?
  • What distinguishes your team from others?
  • What skills and capabilities does your team possess that no other team has?

Leading your teams through this exercise will set them up to do their best work, orient them toward their North Star, and help them prioritize day-to-day decision making.

2. Establish clear parameters

Boundaries and constraints are a necessary part of innovation and product-development processes. Every team needs an understanding of the must-haves, the watch-outs, and general parameters for their work.

I once observed a team work on a prototype only to find out after the fact that leadership wasn’t clear about the requirements for the product. It meant that the team needed to go back to the drawing board with the new considerations in mind.

This is an incredibly inefficient way to work, not to mention wildly disempowering.

As a leader, it’s helpful to be clear up front about the boundaries the team needs to operate within. It not only builds trust between you and the people you manage, but it also empowers them to be more efficient and effective in their work.

3. Have a plan for addressing disagreements and communication breakdowns

A big part of leading with clarity is navigating conflict constructively. When you can lead teams through that, you help them stay the course and remain focused on the work at hand (rather than spinning out on drama or challenges that block the road to progress).

Here are some tips for getting ahead of things:

  • Create a culture where conflict is seen as an opportunity to learn from one another and grow together. Discomfort and disagreement are a part of life, so how do we get better at navigating it, and which approaches will make these interactions more productive? Here’s an article with tips for navigating hard conversations — it might be a helpful resource for you and your team members alike.
  • When disagreements arise, facilitate discussions that focus on understanding different perspectives rather than winning arguments. When you teach your team to seek common ground and approach conflicts with a problem-solving mindset, it helps everyone feel heard and unites the group.
  • Regularly check in with your team to identify any early signs of miscommunication or misunderstanding. Use it as an opportunity to practice active listening and consider which tools or practices will help prevent molehills from turning into mountains.

Disagreements and communication breakdowns will probably happen among the teams you lead, but you can minimize the effect they have on progress and team culture if you have a plan for addressing it. In other words, assume it will happen and be ready when it does, or pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t.

Leading With Clarity is a Leadership Superpower

Communication is hard and leading people has its fair share of challenges. But both truths sort of come with the territory when you’re the boss. That said, dialing in your clarity superpower is a really impactful way to build teams that are more aligned, productive, and capable of unlocking big ideas. I’ve seen it firsthand in my facilitation work and know it can be true for you and your teams when you embrace these behaviors.

What other practices help you drive clarity? Let me know what has worked in your experience, whether you’re a facilitator or a leader within an organization. And if you’re new here, think about hitting the “follow” button to join my community.



Jackie Colburn

Weekly resources for facilitators and leaders. Learn tips and methods to run better workshops, accelerate teams and uncover new ideas. www.jackiecolburn.com