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.
How Leaders Benefit from Delegation
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.
Why Leaders Fear Delegation
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.
How To Delegate Effectively
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.