Lately I’ve been thinking about delegation as it relates to leadership. Often we think of delegating as a way to gain efficiency, to get more done. While that is often a byproduct I don’t think it is the primary reason for a leader to delegate. When we delegate, we are lending some of our influence to others in our organization or community. We’re admitting that we are not the most qualified person for every decision and that our success is bigger than our own gifts.
I have a hard time delegating because I have a hard time relinquishing control. I’m very methodical and I like to have things done a certain way. Delegating a task to someone else forces me to let go of my idiosyncrasies and to trust someone else to do a good job. They may not do it the way I would do it, but then again they may do it better. As a leader, my goal is not to create a bunch of replicas of myself. My goal should be to take the strengths and gifts and resources of others to further the vision together. By delegating I allow others to use their strengths to make our organization stronger.
Recently our company has been growing and we’ve hired some contractors to work on a few of the projects we’ve been contracted to do. For the last year, and for much of my career, I’ve been the only person to touch a codebase. For better or worse I’ve written every line of code and know every nook and cranny. I’ve developed my own style and conventions – some of them are based on best practices and help to keep the project maintainable, and some of them are just based on my own quirks. As other people have gotten in these projects and written their own code, in their own style, I’ve had to relinquish control and allow them to do their work in their own way. I still give input and sometimes make suggestions, but I had to make a decision that I was going to let them do their work.
And, you know what happened? They have done great work and I’ve learned a lot in the process. They have done things in ways I would never have thought to do and now I can actually be better at what I do by watching how they work. If I had nitpicked every line of code I would have crushed their motivation and would have wasted the precious time they have saved me micro-managing their every move.
Of course, as a leader, I’m still responsible for the end product and I have to allow others space to fail. By delegating, I’m not pushing off my responsibility, but I’m empowering others to contribute to the success of the organization. Delegating allows my organization not to be limited by my own time and talents, but to be the sum of all of our strengths. A leader who delegates is a leader who is confident in their team and honest about their own limitations.
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