How (and Why) Great Leaders Are Great at Delegating

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One thing I love about the work I do is that it gives me contact with a wide range of leaders.

I especially enjoy the opportunity to learn from those whose commitment, drive, and intelligence result in the kind of great leadership we all want to emulate. They’re a wide-ranging group, but there are a few traits that many of them share.

Here’s one near the top of the list: They are masters of delegation.

The advantages to delegation

That might seem surprising at first, considering that leaders tend to be driven take-charge types. But done strategically, delegation brings quite a few advantages:

  • More time to spend on the big picture — Many leaders wish they had more time to spend on long-range planning and relationship building. Judicious delegation gives you that time.
  • The ability to go beyond your own perspective — No matter how good you are, your work can benefit from a different point of view.
  • A chance for your best employees to grow and shine — There’s a special motivation that comes with being entrusted with something important. You’ll build their leadership skills and their loyalty.
  • Organizational sustainability — Nobody likes to think about it, but life is uncertain and a sudden accident, illness, or family emergency can strike at any time. Delegation ensures that your team can get along without you if they need to.

Done strategically, delegation can be a powerful force. But it’s not enough to just dump a stack of files on someone’s desk and walk away. Good management and communication structures are essential.

Getting the most out of it

Here are some points to help you get the most from delegation:

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  1. Go past your preconceptions. Don’t lock in ideas about team members based on their job title, age, or other factors. Instead look objectively — with help if you need it—to identify whose strengths match up best with the task at hand.
  2. Be clear about expectations and timelines. Make it clear that when you delegate, you’re setting people up to be successful. Make expectations challenging but reasonable, and make sure they’re understood.
  3. Make sure good communication patterns are in place. Do people feel free to come to you with questions and issues? Do you respond to problems with blame and anger, or focus on finding a solution? Especially when things go wrong — and at some point they almost certainly will — excellent communication can keep a project on track.
  4. Resist the temptation to micromanage. As leaders, we tend to value control — and that makes it especially hard to let go of something important. But micromanagement is counterproductive. To get the most from delegation, set up a reporting structure and make it clear you’re available to help, then step back.

Like any other skill, delegation will take a certain amount of work and discipline to master. But with so many advantages, it’s a skill well worth pursuing.

This originally appeared on the Jeremy Kingsley blog.