National Association of Christian Ministers Leadership Series
By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.” -Ronald Reagan
The Fearfully Responsible
Delegation is a word that sends fear into the hearts of many leaders. After all, the leader is inevitably in charge and responsible for outcomes. If those outcomes are undesirable it means that the leader must accept the blame. For this reason many are tempted to just assume all of the work and all of the outcomes -good or bad. At least this way they can keep the playing field fair, they will never have to bear the blame of other people’s mistakes.
Another response to delegation are those who have the philosophy, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. These people believe that no one is capable of performing things as well as they can, or at least at the level of their expectations. They would not necessarily word their feelings in this way, but their actions demonstrate it. If you get in their way they will quickly inform you that they do not have time to “play games”, or for meaningless “small talk”. They spend much of their time analyzing their way of doing things, and they just cannot understand why so many people are not as “efficient” as they are in their time management and processes.
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Both of the above described leadership styles are inevitably positioned to experience frustration, disappointment, and burnout. On top of these things, the people under them are likely to lose respect for them or even harbor resentment. People who have fallen into leadership traps like these seem to have forgotten one fundamental aspect of leadership, that is the followers. The followers are there to help the cause, but many leaders will not let their followers follow.
When people are micromanaged and or told that they cannot take on responsibilities, they are held back from expressing their God given talents and strengths. This becomes a lose-lose situation for everyone. No leader can do it all. If their task were intended to be done by them alone, then there is no need for their leadership and no need for followers.
The effective leader understands that more can be accomplished through delegation. Moses once struggled with this problem. He emotionally arrived at a place where his responsibilities (the people’s needs) became too much for him to bare. In desperation he said to the Lord:
Num 11:14-15 MKJV
(14) I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
(15) And if You are going to part this way with me, I beg You to kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and let me not see my misery.
I imagine that all of us can empathize with Moses here. At some time or another we have become so overwhelmed with our responsibilities that we lose sight of things. However, notice how God responded to him:
Num 11:16-17 MKJV
(16) And Jehovah said to Moses, Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and the officers over them. And bring them to the tabernacle of the congregation so that they may stand there with you.
(17) And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take of the spirit on you, and will put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you so that you do not bear it yourself alone.
God instructed Moses to delegate, and then assured him that in so doing He would give the delegated the same spirit that was given to himself. Delegation is the way that God intends for leaders to handle responsibility.
Consider the way Jesus handled responsibility. He testified that he came to deliver the Father’s message. Then he selected 12 and trained them, and later he selected 70.
Luk 10:1 MKJV
(1) And after these things the Lord appointed seventy others, And He sent them two and two before His face into every city and place where He was about to come.
There is an interesting contrast between Moses’ and Jesus’ way of handling responsibility. Moses delegated as a “reaction” to the circumstances. Jesus delegated because it was a part of his plan from the beginning. Moses was reactive, Jesus was proactive.
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” -George S Patton
Luk 10:17 MKJV
(17) And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us through Your name.
Delegation should not be a reactive response to stressful responsibilities, but rather a part of our beginning plans and vision to develop others.
1) When is the best time to plan for delegation?
2) When is the best time to delegate?
3) What can we learn from the delegation situation with Moses?
4) What can we learn from the delegation situation with Jesus?
5) How is delegation important to developing others?