Empowering Others Through Delegation


This quote is sobering: “Trying to build leaders by regularly exposing them to your brilliance guarantees a lack of development. You will not have allowed anyone around you to show up with solutions outside the reach of your own personal headlights.  If your employees believe their job is to do what you tell them, you’re sunk.” (Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations)


Empowering others through delegation is critical for leaders. Moses learned this lesson from his father-in-law (Exodus 18) many years ago, but too many leaders are still reluctant or ill-equipped to effectively delegate. There are common concerns (i.e ‘what if the quality isn’t as good as I could do it?’), fears (i.e. ‘what if someone else does this better than me?’) and excuses (i.e. ‘it’s faster for me to do this myself’).  The bottom line, however, is that effective delegation empowers others and brings protection as well as provision for leaders and organizations.

Here are four keys to empowering others through delegation:

1. Try To Do Only What Only You Can Do

Wise mentor and executive coach Bobb Biehl states, “When you are doing something that someone else on your staff could do 80% as well, you are probably wasting your time.”  In other words, try to focus on doing the things that only you can do.  Empower others by delegating as much as possible of everything else. Are you holding onto some roles or tasks that others could do 80% as well as you? If you were to delegate these roles, what time would free up for you?  Would others be empowered?

2. Determine What You Are Delegating

Are you delegating a task or a project or a function? Take a fundraising event as an example. Delegating a task might be asking someone to secure the venue or caterer. Delegating a project would be empowering someone to develop the program for the event. Delegating a function would be asking someone to oversee all fundraising events. You need to have greater levels of confidence moving from delegating tasks to project to function. This confidence can be earned as those to whom you delegate demonstrate good leadership. Is what’s being delegated clear in everyone’s mind? Is the person ready for a task, a project or a function?

3. Clarify Outcomes

Communicate clearly about the specific deliverables or outcomes that you expect. Leave some room for the individual to determine their own process and chart their own course.  Give more trusted followers more latitude on the how. In every case make the target of success crystal clear. What does success look like? Have you clearly communicated required outcomes?

4. Reflection, Learning and Celebration

Close the loop through an intentional debrief of the delegation experience. Take time appropriate to the leader’s experience and the complexity of what was delegated to reflect, learn and celebrate. Too often this critical piece is missed. Be intentional with encouragement and constructive feedback.

What holds you back from empowering others through delegation? Can you share some helpful tips to more effectively delegate?  Please share your comments – or share this article with a friend.