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Leadership is the art of influencing people, which requires delegation to be effective. Delegation is the art or process of assigning specific duties and responsibilities to subordinates in an organization. Delegation comes in different forms and leaders must be familiar with these forms in order to make good delegation decisions.
One such form is what I call general delegation, which means leaders delegate responsibilities as a way of training the next generation of leaders in their organizations. This delegation is important because it helps preserve the mission and vision of the organization. Another form is crisis delegation, where the leaders delegate duties and responsibilities to subordinates when a crisis, such as when a leader is absent from the organization for a prolonged time (e.g hospitalized or attending to a sick relative). Therefore, leaders must delegate responsibilities and duties during times of crisis in order for the organization to continue operating. It is important to remember that, with the delegation of duties, the leader who delegates is still responsible and accountable for the delegated duties. Any mistakes or errors committed by subordinates when carrying out the delegated duties still rest with that leader.
When leaders delegate some of their responsibilities and duties, they benefit in some ways from the process. First, delegating tasks removes some of the duties from the leaders; subordinates perform these duties so leaders can concentrate in areas where the organization will benefit most, like the negotiation of contracts that benefit the whole organization. Second, by delegating tasks leaders can groom future leaders because subordinates will learn how the organization works at a higher level; when it is time for the subordinate to take over, they will have already learned the necessary skills for the positions. Third, delegation, when done properly, will raise the morale of subordinates in the organization because it will show them that the leadership believes that they can be trusted to do delegated work. Fourth, proper delegation also improves trust between subordinates and leadership which tends to lead to a cohesive organization. Fifth, when duties are delegated to subordinates, efficiency increases because duties are given to people whose skills match the delegated duties, thereby freeing time for the leader to concentrate on other important duties of the organization. For example, there is no reason for a leader to be keeping daily records of who is reporting to work when that work can be done by subordinates with expressed instructions to report the progress back to the leader.
Delegation is not always easy for some leaders; there are many reasons as to why they fear to do it. First, they are afraid of being outshined by the subordinates who performs the delegated work well. Because of this, leaders find it difficult to delegate. Second, some leaders fear that they will not be recognized for the work done by the subordinates and, thus, refuse to delegate. Recognition is important for moving up the leadership ladders in some organizations. Third, some leaders refuse to delegate because they fear that they will lose the trained subordinate to a rival organization that might use that subordinate to compete with the leader’s organization. Fourth, some leaders fear to delegate because they feel that something important has been removed from their responsibilities. As a result, they keep all their duties. Fifth, some leaders in organizations develop preconceived ideas about subordinates that prevents them from delegating duties and responsibilities to them. It is a sad situation, but it happens in some organizations and hinders the cohesiveness of the organization. In the long term, such thinking affects productivity. Sixth, the fear of being exposed as a leader who does not understand his/her job can cause a leader to limit the delegation of duties until he/she acquires the competence needed in the position. No leader wants to be exposed by subordinates for not understanding how the organization runs. Seventh, in some organizations, there is a shortage of staff shortage, so leaders keep all duties and responsibilities that pertain to their jobs. Eighth, some leaders fear that if they delegate responsibilities and duties to subordinates, they will lose control of them because they will know too much of what goes on in the organization, causing top leadership to ignores directives from the leader. What this kind of leader forgets is that those delegated duties eventually land on his/her desk for approval, which means such fear is unfounded. Ninth, in some organizations staff tend to be lazy, which makes leaders not want to delegate some of their responsibilities to them out of fear that they will not manage those duties well. Finally, inadequate training of staff also tends to make leaders fear delegating some responsibilities to subordinates because they think they will not do the delegated duties as per the instructions given.
To be effective in the delegation of duties and responsibilities leaders must do the following. First, they must give clear instructions on what should be done for the delegated duties and, when they are completed, to whom to report. Second, leaders must avoid over delegating their responsibilities because they might be perceived as over relying on the subordinates for the accomplishment of organizational duties. It might also affect the performance of subordinates. Third, leaders must always praise their subordinates when they successfully complete the delegated duties and tasks. Such praise tends to boost subordinates’ morale at the work place, thereby increasing productivity. Fourth, micro-managing the subordinates when duties and responsibilities have been delegated will increase mistrust because the subordinates will think that the leader does not have confidence in them to complete the assigned tasks. Therefore, leaders must at all times avoid micro-managing the subordinates to whom they delegate responsibilities and instead should monitor them from a far. Fifth, effective delegation requires leaders to provide adequate information on the duties and responsibilities of the delegated positions so that the subordinates will perform the duties efficiently. Sixth, when delegating duties, leaders must ensure that subordinates do not fear anything will happen to them if the delegated duties are not performed at an acceptable level. They must reassure subordinates that the failure to reach the acceptable level will be a teachable moment for them to improve as they repeat the same duties. Removing the fear will encourage subordinates to perform well without the fear of retribution. Seventh, for leaders to know how subordinates are doing in their delegated duties and responsibilities, they should always request feedback from them in order to monitor their progress. In requesting feedback, the leaders will know when corrections are needed or where more resources are required for better performance of the delegated duties and responsibilities. Finally, before duties are actually delegated, subordinates must be trained on them. Without proper training, subordinates will be hesitant to take up delegated responsibilities due to a fear of failure.
As a social function, delegation is based on the trust that leaders have in their subordinates that they will accomplish the delegated duties successfully. Yet it remains a calculated risk, as delegation does not guarantee success on the delegated duties. On the other hand, for leaders to be successful and effective in running organizations efficiently, delegation is necessary. Without delegation, leaders might be overwhelmed by duties that might be done well by subordinates’, thereby freeing time for them to concentrate on other duties that might benefit the organization.
*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
“Today, no leader can afford to be indifferent to the challenge of engaging employees in the work of creating the future. Engagement may have been optional in the past, but it's pretty much the whole game today.” ~Gary Hamel
According to a 2014 Gallup poll less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. While that is up from the previous year and the highest since Gallup began tracking engagement, the flip side is that the majority of employees are not engaged and according to the poll 14.5% were “actively disengaged”.
The Gallup poll went on to say that the highest engagement was amongst managers and executive officers and had increased over 2013 from 34.7% to 38.4%. This means that 61.6% are either not engaged or actively disengaged. So what is the effect of this disengagement on front line employees?
A 2013 survey by recruitment agency Staffbay.com found that 87.2% of employees wanted to leave their current role within 12 months and a study by Harris Interactive indicated that 74% of people would consider leaving their job. While these studies were done in 2013 they are still relevant considering the economy and job market is considerably better now than it was then. It is important to also keep in mind that talented employees are always in demand and those are the ones who will leave first.
Where does manager engagement fit into this picture? If we look at the Staffbay survey, 52.6% of their respondents said they would leave because they did not trust their boss. A CareerBuilder survey said that 37% had poor opinions of their boss, and a recent Gallup study reported that about 50% of the more than 7K surveyed said they left a job “to get away from their manager.” Clearly there is a problem with today’s management, but what is the solution?
Identify & Select
“I think that if you ask what's made us successful, it's because we've been fortunate enough to identify, in a number of cases, great people early. Then we throw all the resources behind them and are aligned with them.” ~Dan Levitan
Poor or bad managers cost companies billions because they directly impact employee engagement and turnover. The first problem is that companies tend to select individuals to manage instead of lead. Anyone can be a manager, but being a leader takes a completely different skillset. Getting the work done and making the numbers are important but they are not the end all be all because those costs are easy to measure. What is harder to measure is the lost potential productivity by employees who are disengaged by their poor manager and the staggering cost of turnover. Instead of selecting managers based solely on their ability to get the work done or make the “numbers”, companies need to define what skills make for good leaders and select based on a mix.
Train & Develop
Once the individual with the right mix of leadership and management skill is identified and hired the work must continue with robust training and development. Too often, after hiring a manager the individual left to their own devices and then senior management wonders why they have so many problems or their great hire failed. It cannot be assumed just because someone knows how to land the sale they know how to lead other people. Leadership is learned and if a person has never had good leadership they can’t be expected to know what it looks like. New managers need to have a structured process to develop them into strong leaders.
“Accountability breeds response-ability.” ~Stephen Covey
It seems simple but it holding people accountable seems to be one of the biggest challenges for organizations because accountability really starts with setting clear expectations. Setting clear expectations involves more than just stating what you want the end result to be, it also involves clarifying the how, when, and what happens if the expectation is not met. Finally it involves actually following through and holding the individual accountable. This should be truer for leaders as they set the example for everyone else.
“Not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.” ~Einstein
Metrics are important but only if value and action comes from them. Something must be done with the data that is collected. Their tends to be two extremes when it comes to metrics, either nothing is being measured and thus opportunities for improvement and re-alignment are being missed, or everything is being counted but nothing is being done with the data because there is either too much or it has just become an exercise in collection for collections sake.
When it comes to leadership metrics the first step is to define what counts and then separate them from other business metrics like financials etc. The second step is to define how they will be used. Here it is important not to fall in the trap of collecting data for collections sake but actually using it.
All of these things should yield results in the form of employee retention and satisfaction. Those things will in turn result in greater productivity and a better bottom line. It all starts with identifying the right leaders. Develop them so that they are actively engaged. Expect them to set the right example. Establish metrics that count and hold them accountable.
*Image courtesy of cooldesign/freedigitalphotos.net
On June 18,1940, Winston Churchill, the newly elected British Prime minister, addressed the House of Commons regarding the Battle of France and the impending Battle of Britain. The United States would not enter into the war for another six months, leaving Britain to stand alone against the Nazi war machine. Churchill’s speech was not only intended to address the House, but was also broadcast on the BBC to the British public. Many have considered this to be one of the greatest speeches ever given in the English language. What is it about this speech that makes it so powerful?
The Great Visionary
In order to study the importance of this speech, we must study the events which had occurred leading up to it. Only two weeks prior to Churchill’s speech, the British navy, along with a fleet of private fishing boats, completed the evacuation of British, French and Commonwealth troops from Dunkirk before they were utterly crushed by the advancing Nazi forces. Only having held the office of Prime Minister for six weeks, Churchill needed to calm, inspire and motivate not only the British military, but the people as well. So as we look at the speech, I will attempt to break down the speech into some key elements he used to achieve his goal.
Throughout most of the 36 minute speech, Churchill spoke very directly and very logically about the events in France. He opens the speech by placing blame for the “colossal military disaster” (Churchill, 1940) squarely on the French High Command, but holds in a more subtle way, the House of Commons and the Parliament at fault as well. At the same time, he tells the British people that he does not want to dwell on this, but must look to the future. In fact he speaks of the future several times during the course of the speech. “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future” (Churchill, 1940). To this he immediately follows up with facts and figures regarding the number of troops rescued from the shores of Dunkirk, including British, Canadian and French troops. In fact, during most of the speech he refers to facts and figures regarding their ability to defend the Island from any possibility of invasion. During the entire speech, Churchill always spoke in truthful yet positive terms, then telling the British people that it is business as usual, “Those who are not called up, or else are employed during the vast business of munitions production in all its branches-and their ramifications are innumerable-will serve their country best by remaining at their ordinary work until they receive their summons.” (Churchill, 1940). At its heart, one can see the British wartime slogan “Keep Calm and Chive On”. During his address, Churchill never tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the British people by diminishing the strength of the German military forces, but also insisting that Britain will prevail. When placing Churchill into the role of a modern business leader, Caroline Longstaffe writes “Churchill’s approach would be firstly to explain the current realities, then inspire the team by offering them a vision for how things could be, then tell them how to achieve this and finally mobilize them into action” (Longstaffe, 2005).
The Great Orator
Winston Churchill was a visionary leader, of that there is no doubt. To be a great leader, he also had to be a great communicator. He had not only a keen grasp of the English language, but understood how to deliver his message. If one looks at the final typed transcript of the speech and how it is setup, it is written in a blank verse format, with five-line paragraphs of indented type, “a form the Churchill Archives Center's director, Allen Packwood, compared to the Old Testament Book of Psalms, regarded by many literary scholars as one of the seminal influences, with Shakespeare, on Churchill's literary and rhetorical style” (Burns, 2010). One can read the words, but this does not compare to listening to Churchill himself give the speech. To listen to the tempo and rhythm he uses, perhaps calculated to calm the people. Even though this is dire news, it is given so as to not incite panic in the British people. One important thing to note as it pertains to leadership communication is that, like all of his speeches, he wrote this speech. Unlike modern politicians, there were no speech writers during this period. The words are his, and because of this, he believes his words and is sincere in his message. In order to convey a positive ethos, a leader must be sincere, using their own words, style and tone to convey their message, even if that message is not necessarily a good one.
A Man of Purpose
Sir Winston Churchill’s Finest Hour speech had vision, which he conveys to the House of Commons and the British people with a sincerity that all leaders should strive for. Along with those qualities, his speech also had purpose. In the final four sentences, Churchill states, “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour” (Churchill, 1940). He makes no bones about what failure means, but that if everyone does their part, the Empire will endure. Those future historians will look back and say that despite overwhelming odds, Britain prevailed. She prevailed because her people never lost hope, kept calm and chived on. All leaders, whether in the corporate world or the political arena, should aspire to this kind of honesty and sincerity.
Burns, John F. (2010, June 18) Seventy Years Later, Churchill's 'Finest Hour' Yields Insights. The New York Times, p A8(L).
Churchill, Winson (1940, June 18), Finest Hour Speech, Address to the House of Commons, London England
Longstaffe, Caroline (2005) Winston Churchill, a leader from history or an inspiration for the future? Industrial and Commercial Training 37(2/3), 80-83
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