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Delegation and Leadership

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 12 September 2018   |   By Isang Lekhutile

The Work Place

During the past month, I extensively wrote about Human Resource issues dealing with Coaching and other topics. In this article, I will discuss the leadership attributes of delegation. I usually refuel my car at one particular filling station on the A1 road, and they have become fond of me as I often purchase the Mail & Guardian newspapers when fuelling. On this one particular occasion, I struck up a conversation with the filling station supervisor and with curiosity getting the better of me I enquired about how the supervisor performs her duties on a day-to-day basis. To my surprise, the supervisor was honest enough to point out that her superior being the filling station manager does not delegate certain tasks to his subordinates, thereby making them feel irrelevant.


Form the conversation I could pick up that there was an issue with delegation and not trusting the employees to perform at their optimum. Senior Management of most organisations strives for inclusiveness of resources so as performed tasks effectively, efficiently and on time. However, for this to be realised, line managers need to trust and empower their subordinates with responsibilities, accountability and authority relevant to their roles and levels in the organisation.

Delegation is not “Mme mphe bogobe”. Most leaders struggle with effective delegation of tasks and responsibilities. Even experienced managers struggle to delegate tasks effectively. One important rule in management is Delegation; managers need to be cognizance of the fact that they cannot do everything by themselves. Delegation does not take away responsibility rather it empowers and builds trust.


Effective delegation provides benefits for all parties concerned. I have witnessed cases where managers literally want to be the drivers, plumbers and cooks. How possible is that? Really? How can one individual perform all tasks effectively without Delegating? Residing on and owning a farm has taught me a lot about delegation, authority and communication. As most farmers would agree with me, running farm is a demanding task. Sometimes even much more difficult than a paid (8am – 5pm) work at your office. For a farmer to be able to do most of the farming tasks, one needs to delegate almost everything and monitor or assist for completion. I have my standard of excellence at the farm and I expect my Headman to meet that same standard. So I delegate as my 8 hours of my day is dedicated to my employer.

Delegation could be defined as a process of passing responsibility, authority and trusting a Subordinate to perform a task within expected standards. It involves empowering Subordinates to make decisions consistently with the delegated responsibility and authority that they have received. Delegation in most cases arises from broad or many tasks that need to be done. To my understanding, Delegation isn’t about giving total power to the subordinates. The ultimate responsibility and accountability still remains with the Manager. Delegation is a two-way street which involves the Manager instructing a Subordinate to strictly perform a specified task to a particular standard and within a specified timeline, and the Subordinate to clearly communicate and execute the task as assigned.


Delegation is not an endless task. One would ask – where are we getting it wrong as managers? Why are we failing as organisations? Could the problem lie within the power hungry individuals? Alternatively, does the problem lie with our Subordinates? Or is it our personal relationships and networks failing us to move from information power Managers to liberal Managers? Reading this article, I hope it will provide a better assessment for both managers and subordinates on how to work together effectively.

The above questions are posed to you. I acknowledge that each industry has its own culture. However, Delegation is universal across all sectors. How we delegate will differ from scope, cost and time of tasks to be delegated. I am now addressing the elephant in the room. If you have self-awareness of this issue, you will appreciate this article much more and find answers to your own case.


On the other side of the equation the blame comes from leadership of the organisation. Leadership in organisations are also barriers to effective delegation if they are reluctant and not trusting employees to perform tasks. From my experience, the majority of bottlenecks in delegation across organisations are mainly the Managers not trusting their subordinates. “For instance certain managers are unwillingly to delegate because of limelight and Glory”. In organisations we still have managers competing with their subordinates for some stupid and unnecessary things.  These managers will take anything and everything on their wing to transport their CEO’s out of their sight.

It is important for organisations to train managers about the importance of delegation and allow them to train their subordinates about their priorities, business objectives and determine which tasks are more important at each moment. Another reason why Managers or Seniors fail to delegate is due to failing to plan their work. One serious barrier in management is the informal method of delegation used. The informal method is complicated and subordinates need to extensively understand the behaviour and pattern of high authority expectation. We have to give credit where it is due. Truly we always give thanks to the donkey cart driver than the donkey itself. The job is done at the bottom and the journey from house to the pond is covered by the donkey not the driver. The driver is there to give direction to the destination point. Lack of appreciation mainly from the Managers pushes employees to resist and accept delegation with ease.


Subordinates also have their own share of the blame and one particular concern by employees is laziness and incompetence. As indicated earlier, Delegation is a two-way street and employees have a role to play also. One challenge from employees is lack of own development. Subordinates mostly believe that development of their own career lies with Managers and the organisation. I bet to differ. Each and every employee is responsible for their own development and the organisation provides support for structured learning and development in this instance. At times, Managers’ lack of trust from Subordinates is due to incompetence and laziness. Employees as well need to come to the party and show their worth. Employees need to earn the trust from leadership or else they will always remain behind and become disengaged. Employees spend most of their time on social media platforms and in the process acquire knowledge that in most cases does not add value to their line of work. If employees do not care to embrace change and take charge of their own personal development, they will remain stack in the same position until Jesus comes.


I don’t like informal delegation at all and I have always preferred the SMART approach in Delegation. Make your instruction to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time frame. In all possible means, SMART approach reduces these issues of unreasonable demands and request from Managers.  In conclusion, Delegation is important everywhere, whether in families or churches. No man has ever been an island and every man is a piece of a puzzle connecting all the dots on this continent. Make sure your puzzle piece realised by making an impactful and meaningful contribution to society whether in your workplace, church or family.

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