The Art of Delegation – Guest Post by Randy Allen


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the four stages of delegation. This is an essential skill for leaders to master. Today’s blog is a guest post by Randy Allen, a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He has been training military leaders for 25 years. He trains next generation pilots for the Air Force and I appreciate him sharing his expertise with us today.

In the United States Air Force, it is not difficult to find Type A decision makers.  We attract them like moths to a flame.  However, in order to create a successful Air Force officer, it is critical to mold this raw talent into an able group leader.  Among one of the most challenging tasks in building these future leaders is teaching the art of delegation, a crucial component to effective leadership.

Delegating does not come naturally to leaders for a variety of reasons, chief among them being loss of control.  By handing a task to a subordinate or team of subordinates, you must relinquish the power of decision-making, trusting in your team to do what’s best. Giving up control without relinquishing authority is a challenging task.  Though you delegate the completion of the task, the authority and responsibility still remain with you, the leader.

Too often I hear the old adage, “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.”  Nothing could be further from the truth, and learning to delegate will bring accountability, innovation and increased productivity to your organization.

The reasons for this are threefold:

1. Delegation empowers your subordinates.

They understand the reality that they have a stake in your organization’s success and they can positively affect the outcome.

2. Delegation fosters new and creative ideas.

Today’s youth, though inexperienced, are teeming with knowledge, creativity, and energy.  If you point them in the right direction and encourage them to take flight, you will be amazed at the innovative solutions that spring forth.  While a little course correcting is sometimes needed, the desired end destination is almost always assured.

3. Delegation frees the leader from doing all the work.

At worst, you will get an 80% solution of what you really want and simply need to take it the “rest of the way home.”  At best, you will discover new and ingenious ideas from within your own team.  By leveraging your team’s individual talents, you create a synergistic effect that will exponentially increase not only your productivity, but also that of your organization.

With that in mind, I’ve written a few steps that I think help energize delegation within any organization.

  1. Set a clear vision for your people.  This seems obvious, but in today’s fast-paced world leaders sometimes forget to take the time and clearly articulate their vision and goals to the team.
  2. Establish the boundaries within which your team can operate.  Once established, give them free reign to explore innovative ideas and solutions. But also set realistic deadlines, and stick to them.
  3. Remember as the leader, it is your job to “own the problem,” but not necessarily the solution.  Encourage new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking.  Let your team know it’s alright to be wrong.  Fear of making a mistake stifles innovation and creativity.
  4. This doesn’t mean you let them run wild.  Always be ready to course correct when needed.  This lets your organization know you’re engaged and support their work, without micro-managing.
  5. Once a successful solution to your project has been reached, don’t forget to praise your team for their hard work and success.  “Success begets success” after all.  Don’t forget to give constructive criticism as well.  Remember, you’re training future leaders.  It is as important for your subordinates to know what they did wrong as well as what they did right.  The key is to keep it constructive.

By delegating decision-making to your subordinates, you are helping to train your replacement.  Too often, great leaders leave a wake of dysfunction behind them when they move on to another position and/or organization, because there is no one to step in and fill that void.  One of the first steps a responsible leader should do when assuming a leadership role, is begin to train the person or people that will eventually take their place, and delegating starts that process.

Delegation is a pivotal skill to master in order for young, inexperienced leaders to become the sage, able leaders of tomorrow.  By empowering your subordinates, fostering innovation and shifting some of the decision-making workload from yourself to your team, you will be a more successful leader, build a better organization, and help create future leaders who, together, will build a better world.

How have you used delegation in your organization? What results have you seen?

Looking for more practical ideas to empower next generation leaders?

Check out Life Giving Mentors: A Guide to Investing Your Life in Others.

The Art of Delegation - Guest Post by Randy Allen