Leadership Spotlight

Leading Through Delegation

Stock image of a business manager looking at paperwork with two younger employees.

“Being an effective delegator involves trusting employees, communicating effectively, and occasionally being a teacher.”

—Dan Schwartz1

Congratulations! After years of putting in hard work and staying late—doing all those things to increase your skills and get yourself noticed—you finally get the promotion you deserve. But, those self-congratulatory feelings begin to fade. The realization that you no longer are responsible for your own work, but for the work of others, seems to erase those positive feelings. How do you instill in employees the same motivation, drive, and determination you had? Delegation is the key.

Good leaders, knowing that they cannot do the job alone, delegate tasks to others to help themselves complete the mission. However, great leaders use delegation to empower their employees by matching them with the right tasks and giving them the trust and confidence to complete assignments independently.

Because of their fear of failure, new or insecure leaders often hesitate to delegate sensitive and important work to subordinates. Rather, they relegate routine and mundane tasks to their employees. This might be a practical course to follow in your first few months as a manager, but after a period of observation and interaction, you should know your team’s capabilities.

The first step to being an effective delegator is assigning the job to the right people and clearly communicating your desired outcome. There should be no ambiguity as to what this outcome looks like. If there are time considerations, this also should be clearly communicated. Now comes the hard part—staying away and letting your subordinates complete the task their way.

Empowering subordinates to complete tasks using their own methods and creativity not only provides them with confidence but also opens the door for other approaches to completing a process or solving a problem.

Sure, you have to do all the management things, like keeping track of their progress and ensuring there are enough resources available to complete the project. But, the point of delegation is twofold. It serves to: 1) increase your productivity as a leader and manager by distributing the work to others and, more important, 2) develop employees and bolster their skills so that they can aspire to become future leaders.

Supervisory Special Agent Demetrio Avelino, an instructor in the Leadership Programs and Instruction Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at davelino@fbi.gov.

1 Dan Schwartz, “3 Topics Every New Manager Training Should Include,” Training Industry, April 12, 2017, accessed November 21, 2019, https://trainingindustry.com/articles/professional-development/3-topics-every-new-manager-training-should-include/.