“A true leader leads by empowering not by enslaving.”

― Debasish Mridha

In my experience, the biggest difference between managers and leaders that succeed versus fail is those who empower and delegate typically succeed, while those that micromanage and try to do everything themselves typically fail. As a strategic leader, if you want to grow people you have to empower them, and if you want to grow yourself, you have to delegate.


What are empowerment and delegation?

Empowerment is giving a person autonomy and authority to achieve their accountabilities. Empowerment allows a person or team to figure out and execute the “how” to get something accomplished, without much oversight or meddling from managers or supervisors. Empowerment is based on mutual trust between a person or team and management. Mutual trust is based on the confidence that a person or team can be empowered to get a job done, and, when necessary, ask for help. Micromanagement is the polar opposite of empowerment.

Delegating is passing responsibility to a subordinate or peer. With delegation, the manager or leader is still accountable for the responsibility but allows the subordinate or peer to have ownership in fulfilling the responsibility. Delegation allows for a leader to give more responsibility to people, while also hopefully freeing time for the leader to work on more important things.


Why are empowerment and delegation important?

Empowerment is the foundation for people to grow their skills and confidence, showcase their creativity, and feed their passion. Empowerment creates vitality in an organization, as people thrive off the latitude and confidence generation of empowerment. I’ve never seen someone not appreciate empowerment. At first, empowerment can seem like a scary proposition, like taking the training wheels off a bike. But, once someone embraces empowerment, kind of like riding a bike without training wheels, they never want to go back.

Too often managers and leaders become the nexus of an organization, having to have their hands in everything and most of the decisions. When managers or leaders are in the middle of everything it not only slows down the entire organization but often frustrates the team. Delegation is a crucial tool and skill to ensure that team members are motivated, contributing, and growing. Furthermore, delegation allows leaders and managers to focus on higher-value activities. A piece of advice I often give to aspiring professionals is “to get up in the world you need to automate or delegate your existing responsibilities.”


What are the best practices for empowerment & delegation?

Empowerment & delegation are essential to the development of strategic leaders and their teams, as they create tremendous momentum in passion, growth, and capacity. Here are the best practices in utilizing empowerment & delegation.


Prioritize what to delegate

Strategic leaders typically have full plates, with more to take on in the future. To make sure you get everything done you either work more or work smarter. Delegation is working smarter. To figure out what to delegate prioritize your responsibilities, assess how much time they take up, and understand which ones could be done by a delegate.


Assess will & skill before empowering or delegating

The next tool is the Will Skill Matrix, which is helpful in assessing team members. Typically, empowerment and delegation happen when people have both the necessary skill and will for the responsibility. Otherwise, they may be set up for failure.


Position empowerment & delegation as growth opportunities

Giving delegation and empowerment to someone communicates trust and confidence in them to take the next step in their growth. You can frame empowerment & delegation as an in-job promotion to the next level. The more you position empowerment & delegation as a growth opportunity, the more you’ll tap into their passion and pride.


Set them up for success

Whether delegating or empowering, it is critical to set the person or team up for success. Train, coach, and mentor them to the point of confidence and competency that makes everyone comfortable.


Set clear expectations

Another best practice is setting clear expectations on what the end goal or objective is, the expected time frame to get it done, and authority boundaries.


Create check-in and coaching milestones

Whether the delegation or empowerment involves a simple or large and complex responsibility its best practice to create periodic check-in and coaching milestones. The check-ins can be ad hoc, scheduled daily, or formal weekly meetings. The key is to create check-ins for the person or team to showcase progress, seek out coaching and next steps, and problem-solve issues.



 Learn more about Joe Newsum, the author of all this free content and a McKinsey Alum. I provide a suite of coaching and training services to realize the potential in you, your team, and your business. Learn more about me and my coaching philosophy.
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