For many, the thought of a leader empowering followers to make decisions is almost a contradiction in terms. The common perception of leadership is that of the micromanager who finds it difficult to empower others to take decisive steps and accept the responsibility that goes along with it.
But hey, wait a minute! When we look through the annals of history and examine the role of great leaders, we inevitably discover the really great ones were effective delegators. Here is a brief sample of what some of them have to say about empowerment:
- Bill Gates – “As we look further into this century, great leaders will be those who empower others.”
- Abraham Lincoln – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
- General George Patton – “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
- Theodore Roosevelt – “The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Great leaders know the value of involving people as much as possible in all aspects of work and planning decisions. This is because involvement increases ownership commitment and fosters an environment in which people choose to be motivated and to contribute. It is also a key element in team building. As a leader, you are ultimately accountable for the performance of your team, so you must have in place a method for holding your team members accountable for the roles they play in the organisation.
It takes time and commitment to build a team that is based on trust, respect and hard work. It is not always easy, but the pay-off is worth the effort. When the going gets tough and you hit a snag in your delegation process, do not throw in the towel. Analyse what went wrong and what needs to change to fix it. Getting an effective delegation mindset can take time, but once you have clarity on what you should and should not do to manage your team, you are on the path to delegation success.
When delegating responsibilities, where possible, give the recipient a whole task to do. If this is not possible for some reason, make sure they understand the overall purpose of the task. This includes defining exactly what you want them to do. Then ask questions, watch the tasks performed and have the individual assigned the responsibility give you feedback to make sure your instructions were understood.
In essence, great leaders succeed in delegation by:
- providing clear instructions to their followers
- describing clear expectations of the task at hand
- allowing their team members to make decisions
- providing clear deadlines for task completion
- setting up their followers for success through playing to their strengths
Effective leaders trust and believe their followers are going to succeed until proven differently. When failure does occur, they first look to themselves to see if they provided clear expectations, direction and the tools necessary for the delegated task to be completed successfully. Great leaders know that the buck stops with them. Micromanagers tend to assign blame.
To empower people, you must have the right attitude. Insecurity will cripple your ability to empower others. You cannot be afraid. Do not let the fear of empowering a person make you feel like you will be displaced. Empowering people is incredibly fulfilling in so many ways. When you empower people, you are not just influencing them; you are influencing all those around them. And it is always useful to remember there is no success without a successor. So, the process of empowering others is critical to the achievement of the overall objective.
In the final analysis, delegation is a critical aspect of leadership, which is defined as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. The effective leader intuitively knows that delegation of tasks and responsibilities to others expands his/her capacity to take on even greater responsibilities and thus become a better leader.