The ability to delegate as a leader is a core leadership skill. Usually, managers delegate tasks to employees, but delegation can occur among team members, too.

What is the Ability to Delegate as a Leader?

The ability to delegate in leadership is a skill that entrusts leaders with confidence and trust that the delegated task will be accepted, accounted for, and performed to the highest quality standards. A capable delegator must be a good strategist, have excellent communication skills, and possess a talent for recognizing people’s strengths and weaknesses. 

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The Importance of Effective Delegation

The benefits of delegating effectively are many. It saves time to focus on more important goals. It helps you and your team with professional development. Building a larger team is impossible without exercising your ability to delegate as a leader. Finally, adopting a delegating leadership style is vital for business growth.

What is Delegating Leadership Style? 

A delegating leadership style is an empowering and inspirational leadership approach where the leader encourages the employee to exercise greater responsibility and autonomy in task performance. Of all leadership styles, delegating leadership is the closest to coaching because it leaves the employee with open hands to find solutions to work problems. Employees need to understand the goals of a task and choose the means to do it by themselves.

Leaders with an excellent ability to delegate know how to explain the big picture goals and support employees in finding their way to the set results. 

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How to Improve Your Ability to Delegate as a Leader

1. Give everyone a chance.

According to the HBR (Harward Business Review): “To be able to delegate decisions, you need to do two things: establish trust and accept failure as a possibility.” Employees won’t always make the decisions you expect them to – accept that option. Everyone deserves a chance. Extend trust when you see the potential. But the ability to delegate as a leader includes setting rules and retrieving trust when rules are not respected. It is as simple as “chance-earned trust-second chance” and so on.

2. Assess delegation-worthy tasks.

Weekly or monthly, schedule a time to see what tasks are worthy of delegating. This gives you the opportunity to delegate new work and stop your obligations from piling up until you are too stressed to make a healthy leadership decision.

3. Don’t delegate work that requires the leader’s responsibility.

Work that needs to be done in a specific way, work that you enjoy, or work that needs more time to delegate than actually doing it should not be delegated. 

4. Set boundaries and give instructions.

If you give absolute free will, expect chaos. Certain boundaries about task performance must be established. If necessary, provide clear instructions about task results and/or workflows/processes about how a project should be completed. 

5. Identify risks.

A task you have delegated can be done poorly or impressively. Make sure you can tolerate the first if you want to benefit from the second. Do a risk assessment before every task; don’t delegate high-risk tasks. 

6. Delegate gradually.

Gradual delegation means you set milestones and act upon feedback after each completed milestone. An easy way to achieve gradual delegation is to organize work with agile principles. Agile projects are not set in stone from the very beginning and require frequent adaptation. 

7. Make a difference between coaching and delegating.

Coaches guide, educate, and empower. When you coach, the ball of responsibility is more on your side as you are trying to prepare an employee for autonomy and greater authority. When you delegate, you shift the responsibility to the employee’s court.  

8. Include employees in the delegation process.

The employee should have the skills, knowledge, resources, and the will to do the delegated task. Inclusion is about making sure the employee wants to do the task. Clarity about task ownership is a key element of your ability to delegate as a leader.  

9. Distinguish between authority and responsibility.

Authority is the ability to make decisions on behalf of the organization. Responsibility is the ability to take debt on behalf of the organization. If you assign responsibility for a task, provide an equal level of decision-making authority.

10. Delegate cross-functionally.

Your natural tendency may be to delegate to the people in your closest team. However, staying within the constraints of a current team seriously impedes progress because you’re unable to bring in external resources and thus expand your team and your business.  

Learn more about delegating tasks efficiently to improve your ability to delegate in leadership.

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