Is Delegation Selfish? | Part Two

There are not many things that derail game plans quite like subtlety. Ideas, culture and language that seem “close enough” to your original target can appear to be nothing more than semantics in the beginning. But subtlety isn’t word play; subtleties are cracks in the integrity of your culture. Small, yet persistent cracks over time develop into chasms. In other words, your end result winds up being nowhere close to where you originally intended on going.

For example, if I want to grow in my personal capacity, I could say, “I am a student of leadership” or I could say, “I am reading a book on leadership.” Although both appear to run parallel, the end result could be drastically different. The first phrase implies teachability or intentional posturing while the second phrase only equals activity. I can simply read leadership books, but without the intention of humbling myself and applying those principles I am not bettering myself at all; much like drinking a kale smoothie to feel healthy while ingesting a large pizza. Being active does not necessarily equal being effective.

One of the subtleties of building leadership culture is a choice between delegation and empowerment. In Part One of this post I began to create a distinction between these two methods that appear similar, yet produce drastically different results. I touched on two of my five thoughts in that post; here are the other three.

3.) Empowerment values people; delegation uses them.
When leaders care more about completing a mission than drawing the best out of their teams, they switch from valuing people to simply using them as a means to an end. A delegating leader says, “Go do ______ and do it this specific way.” A delegating leader doesn’t leave much room for people to use their imagination, capacity or unique perspective to solve a problem. Ultimately what it communicates to a team is, I only care about your hands, not your heart or your head. An empowering leader says, “You are worth my time and personal investment. I believe in you and will release you to use your unique approach and skill set to find a solution; you’re just what we need to make this better.”

4.) Empowerment is a process; delegation is momentary.
I imagine the biggest reason a leader wouldn’t choose to empower a direct report wouldn’t be an issue of trust, but of time. Empowerment takes a lot of time. Teaching someone what to look for rather than just performing a function takes time. Teaching someone why and asking questions to sharpen their critical eye takes an enormous amount of patience and energy. Values and culture exist in the realm of ideas and trusting someone to use their perspective to make decisions based on those ideals takes a whole lot more time than just telling someone how/what to do in a moment.

5.) Empowerment creates leaders; delegation creates managers.
Delegation tells people to be boxed into current processes, systems and methods as means to accomplishing goals. Where as delegation trains people how to, empowerment trains people how to find a better way. Empowerment releases people to challenge the current system (not authority, process). Leaders who want to produce leaders take a chance on new people and consequently, new ways. Leaders who want managers will delegate and ensure that the end result was accomplished “in the way I’ve always done it”. Delegation is a safe way of leading because you know what to expect every time, but in the end your growth will be capped. Delegation and wide scale innovation cannot coexist.

Empowerment creates a leadership culture. And we need leaders in our world, in our churches today. We need innovators; people who look and relook, think and rethink what’s possible. We need people who have been believed in, have been given a target and then permission to go find solutions in their own God-given way. Empowerment is ultimately how we unlock potential, affirm value and unleash our people to lead.

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4 Comments

  1. Really good Justin! I can see how I’ve been on both sides of the coin and why I respond better under an empowering leader…you clearly explain the difference and it makes me want to put it to practice! Thank you!

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