Great leaders are generally good delegators. Unfortunately, there are two big mistakes that leaders make when it comes to effective delegation:
1. Leaders confuse delegation with abdication.
“I have no idea what’s going on in that part of the business. I’ve delegated it to Fred.” Even when a leader delegates, he or she has to stay involved and informed. Sometimes leaders fail to do that because they fear being falsely accused of micromanagement. But turning our backs and “trusting” someone else to take care of something without our guidance is not leadership. Determining the appropriate level of involvement is an art; sometimes active coaching is necessary, and sometimes occasional check-ins are all that is needed. It depends on the nature of the project and the person being entrusted with managing it. Whatever the case, abdication is never the right answer.
2. Leaders delegate the one area that cannot be delegated.
What is that area? Making their organization healthy. That includes building a cohesive leadership team, creating clarity around the identity and direction of the organization, and communicating and reinforcing that clarity. As tempting as it is for a leader to give any or all of these responsibilities to a COO or head of human resources, it just doesn’t work. Based on my experience working with organizations in almost every industry imaginable, I’ve become convinced that if the person at the top isn’t actively sponsoring, driving and leading efforts to make their organization healthy, those efforts aren’t going to get the attention and prioritization they require.
CEOs can choose to delegate almost any area of running their organizations, depending on their strengths, interests and bandwidth. But what they can’t do is abdicate anything completely, or delegate the responsibility for building and maintaining a healthy organization.