How Delegation Raises the Bar of Leadership


The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels. – Eli Broad

In the world of leadership development there is no shortage of material on the subject of delegation. It’s been a hot-button topic for as long as I can remember. Most of what I read about it falls into a “how to” category of “best practices” and delegation is relegated to independent acts of leadership as the need arises.

But is there another approach worth considering?

In his book, It’s Not About the Coffee, Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks International, writes about what can happen when a business harnesses the creative power of its people. He states, “When any of us, from staff to managers to the CEO, think of ourselves and our colleagues as people- not workers or assets- we discover a wealth of knowledge and talent. When we allow ourselves and others to think creatively and make independent decisions based on common goals, we become more fulfilled, and we make a more worthwhile contribution.”

The concept here is a more lateral view of leadership rather than the traditional top-down approach. When the people in your organization are looked upon as people, not assets or workers, then your approach as a leader will be different and the relationship will be more personal.

When people are allowed to think creatively and make decisions based on common goals everyone wins. It’s what Behar refers to as people using a tool book instead of a rule book. It’s the difference between empowerment and stagnation.

How this plays out in terms of delegation can be a game-changer. Instead of a leader being a dispenser of decisions, or too insecure to delegate, the leader can now- without reservation- turn loose the best and brightest within his or her organization. The results can be transformational. This approach to delegation raises the bar or leadership throughout the organization. Here’s how.

Delegation that empowers the team

When the creative powers of your team are turned loose it creates a special momentum that can’t be duplicated by just one person. An empowered team- dutifully delegated to- can create an energy that is rare. Why? It’s the power not just of a buy-in on the part of the team (employee to employer) but a philosophical shift of “I’ve bought into you” (employer to employee) that makes the difference.

When a team is empowered and trusted, and its collective talents are respected, it raises the level of leadership for everyone.

Leadership Tip: Individual talents and skills are great but make sure your team members are playing to their strengths in the right place. If not, you are wasting valuable time and energy and will have little to show for it.

Delegation that rewards the team

Nothing frustrates a creative team more than an insecure leader who won’t act. The results can be detrimental and eventually the creative ones will leave because they are not fulfilled in their work. But when a leader respects and appreciates the individual as a person and the power of independent thinking- it will dramatically raise the bar of leadership. This approach pays dividends because team members will see their work as rewarding, valued, and appreciated. When this is the system-wide attitude and belief then productivity increases, morale is stronger, and the rewards are greater.

Leadership Tip: Delegation is not an abdication of your responsibility to make sure the vision and goals are clear and the work is being done. There’s a fine line between micro-managing and delegation. But once you delegate- get out of the way and trust your people to perform.

Delegation that elevates the team

When done right delegation will elevate the team to a higher level. When individual talents, skills, knowledge, and expertise come together with a unified goal and purpose, it’s hard not to envision such success. As a result, momentum rises and soon a new attitude and energy will propel your team. A new excitement in the air can be contagious. The bar of leadership has been raised. As a leader you now see and understand that delegation is not your stumbling block to success it is your pathway.

Leadership Tip: It’s incumbent upon you as the leader to channel this new found momentum and energy in the right direction. Unbridled energy moving in the wrong direction can be just as harmful as not enough energy toward the right direction. Keep the mission and vison in front of your people.

Richard Branson invokes an “in it together” attitude within his organization. When this is the approach to delegation it changes everything. Let your delegation empower, reward, and elevate.

What do you say?

© 2015 Doug Dickerson







About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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One Response to How Delegation Raises the Bar of Leadership

  1. Thank you Doug! I never thought of where I place people or channelling the positive energy in the right direction as delegation. My thoughts were too narrow in thinking that handing out to-do tasks was all that delegation was. Now this is a whole new ball game!


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