Leadership Capacity Means Learning to Delegate

I define Leadership Capacity as the ability to lead more effectively and more efficiently at higher levels of organizational complexity.

That definition assumes that a team member already is leading effectively and efficiently at their current level. The ongoing research in leadership development documents that a leader can continue to enrich, enhance, and expand leadership capacity.

Delegation is one critical pathway to maximize capacity

Delegation is a learned competency answering the who, what, when, and how interrogatives. Leaders have three options: (1) Not delegating, (2) Delegating prematurely, or (3) Delegating developmentally

There are three myths surrounding the first option.  Leaders do not delegate because they tell themselves:

“I need control.”

“I can do it faster.”

“It takes too long to train someone else.”


In reality, none are valid.  Leaders who maintain full control of the details in operational work processes make three long-term mistakes:

  1. They become the bottleneck to productivity.

Leaders who assume they can do it faster (or better) miss the perspective of the “Future Productivity Potential” (FPP) from other team members who learn the skills needed for new assignments. The result is more people who can produce more work.

  1. They hinder the development of emerging leaders.

Not delegating leads to confusion and frustration when team members are given full responsibility but not full authority. The application of new learning in stretch assignments is what contributes to new competencies and greater capacity. Organizations that value development and delegation are solving the attraction, retention, and engagement issues faced by others.

  1. They keep themselves busy in operations.

They shy away from the lonely journey to the 30,000-foot perspective needed for strategic leadership.   When they do, no-one else has the assignment


The Delegation Matrix

Delegation is not only learned but it is a process of moving a team member from low responsibility and low authority to high responsibility and high authority.

Leadership Debrief

What operational tasks are you hanging onto that someone else could do? Why?

What operational tasks keep you from the strategic leadership needed for greater effectiveness and efficiency at higher levels of organizational complexity?

Identify one task you could delegate and identify the team member you will invest in to the point of full responsibility and full authority. How about now?


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