You Aren’t Really A Leader Unless You Successfully Delegate

Today I would like to focus on a leadership skill that literally separates leaders who are average or even good from those who are extraordinary.

By way of introduction, pay careful attention to the following passage from the renowned entrepreneur and leader, Richard Branson:

“I believe in using and harnessing other people’s knowledge and experience, which is why I like to work holistically, within a team.  Harnessing energy is like harnessing brainpower. What’s the point of selecting someone for a particular task if you ignore his or her experience and ability?  It’s like consulting experts and not even considering their advice.”  Screw It Let’s Do It Again, pg 2.

Advancing this thought a step or two, Richard expanded further on this idea at the One Young World Leadership Summit recently as he was asked how he had achieved so much in spite of admitted weaknesses he has, including dyslexia:

“Firstly, when I was young they hadn’t discovered dyslexia yet.  And when they did discover it, why on earth they called it dyslexia – one of the most complicated words to remember and spell – I don’t know.

But what I soon learned was that being dyslexic, there are some things you can excel at and some things you can’t.  These other things you need to delegate, and so I actually became a really good delegator.  And for people leading companies it is really important to be a good delegator.  And so being dyslexic helped me because I just knew there were some things I wasn’t good at.”

If the ability to delegate well is a sign of an extraordinary leader, its arch nemesis and opposite of course is the micromanager.  Let’s take a moment to define what a micromanager is, and explore one or two reasons why micromanagement is such an ineffective way to manage and lead.

In their article “Micromanagement is Mismanagement:  Are you a Micromanager?” the National Federation of Independent Business shared the following symptoms to help us identify a micromanager:

“Micromanagement is readily recognized by employees, but most micromanagers don’t think of themselves as micromanagers. Rather, they usually believe they’re practicing good management.

Most people who have been in the workforce any length of time have occasionally been exposed to bosses who micromanage. The micromanager is the manager who must personally make every decision, take a lead role in the performance of every significant task and, in extreme cases, dictate every small step the workers take. To many employees the micromanager is, in modern parlance, a control freak. The micromanager hovers over people who are trying to get their work done and rarely, if ever, seriously considers their ideas and opinions. The only “original” thinking the micromanager recognizes is his or her own.”

Sound familiar?  Maybe it is because you’re working for a micromanager boss right now, or maybe it’s because you are that micromanaging boss – except that couldn’t possibly be you right?

Here are a few more things to look out for:

“When it comes to delegation, a micromanager:

  • Cannot delegate effectively or delegate at all
  • Often hands out only the easy, boring or dirty tasks while delegating nothing of interest or importance
  • May  delegate, but put the employee in a position of deciding nothing of  significance without prior approval
  • May hand out work, supposedly delegating, but hover instead, providing detailed direction, dictating methods rather than providing proper preparation, making the employee  responsible for results and not allowing him or her to figure anything out and learn by doing
  • May hand out a task, but pull it back at the first sign of trouble [or when the task turns exciting or into an opportunity],  failing to provide the employee with a condition essential to growth and development: the reasonable freedom to fail.

Micromanagement is damaging to employees and eventually to the manager. It creates stress and discontent among employees.”

Micromanagement not only results in unhappy staff, but it has a definite business, bottom line consequence as well.

As an example, imagine in your mind that you are the only person allowed to sign off on a very important, extremely urgent design issue, but you are in meetings all day.  Or, imagine what would happen if you insist on being the only person able to negotiate big sales deals, but you have decided to take a couple of days off just as one of your people sniff out an opportunity.

What would happen to your business if this was the status quo regarding all so called “critical decisions”?  I think we all know the answer to that question.

So how do we overcome this?  How do we become effective delegators that are able to successfully maximise the potential of our teams?  Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:

  • Train your staff and then trust your staff

Empowered staff is trustworthy staff.  If you do not trust your staff to perform a particular function, it is, frankly, a direct reflection on your poor leadership.  Leaders empower their employees through training and providing opportunities.

  •  Be clear about what will be a satisfactory outcome

When assigning a task or project, clearly outline what you expect the goals and outcomes to be.  Does this mean you then go on and tell your employee exactly how they should go about achieving those objectives?  Absolutely not.  This is a great opportunity for the employee to grow in experience and confidence.

  • Delegate, don’t abdicate

Delegation is not giving something away – it is allowing others to perform a task that you may very well be able to – but you understand will allow your employees to feel included, valued, and necessary.  However, this does not mean you are not allowed to hold them accountable and that they somehow waive responsibility.

  • Would you attend a birthday party where you knew your friend was going to eat all the cake?

Effective delegation includes praising and rewarding a job well done.  If you take all the glory for a finished, successful project (and/or all the money), you eliminate most of the benefits you have worked so hard to enjoy by becoming a good delegator.

When all is said and done, delegation comes naturally to leaders who have matured past an “I” mentality to a “we” mentality and a “team” state of mind.

Richard Branson did not become who he is by walking a road alone; the same applies to many other noteworthy leaders.  Each of his businesses is headed by teams of top managers and leaders that he trusts.  They know what he wants, he has empowered them with the authority necessary to achieve what he is asking, and he has chosen each of them carefully for their knowledge and abilities.  This makes delegation easy.

This article was featured in the





Founder of Future CEOs™ and co-host of the Future CEOs™ show on, Gareth seeks to empower high potential young executives and ambitious entrepreneurs as they push for CEO status.

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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