The business leader just turned 50. He had advanced in his organization primarily through his relational skills. He was easy to like and most people felt comfortable with him. To this point in his career, his relational skills were sufficient. He had really been more of a manager than a leader. He thus depended on others to make decisions; he would carry them out with a good attitude and a good work ethic.
The First Sign of Problems
The problems began when he was promoted to a position that was clearly one of leadership. He was now expected to make decisions. He was to take initiative instead of waiting on others to move. He now had people who worked under him who waited on him to make critical decisions.
He failed. He seemed frozen in making decisions. He would not let others under him help him. He treated his new level of leadership as if he was still a manager who carried out tasks. He perceived it was his responsibility to do everything, rather than to see that everything got done.
He failed to delegate and thus he failed in his new job.
The Limitations of Failing to Delegate
Failure to delegate will always limit a leader. He or she will not be able to expand the level of influence because that influence is limited to one person.
Often the leader who does not delegate gets overwhelmed and essentially stops functioning. At other times, he or she may move toward workaholism until the inevitable burnout takes place.
The Reasons Leaders Don’t Delegate
So why do some leaders fail to delegate? I have identified seven reasons, though I’m sure you can think of others.
- Some are control freaks. They want to know all details. They are distrustful of others who might make decisions. They feel as if they have lost control of their positions if someone else gets involved in their work.
- Some are insecure. These leaders worry that they will be perceived as disposable if others do some of the critical work. Their lack of security often means that they will hoard assignments even if they do not get done.
- Some are lazy. They don’t want to take the time to equip and train others to do the tasks. They don’t realize that a little investment in someone else only makes their work more productive.
- Some don’t prioritize. If they did, they would make certain that the most important tasks were accomplished. Instead they often spend time on minutiae that makes little difference.
- Some can’t leave their comfort zones. They would rather do the things they’ve always done because they are comfortable doing so. If they delegated their routine tasks, they would have to move out of their comfort zones to take on new challenges.
- Some have analysis paralysis. If they or a subordinate take on a task, the leader wants to look at it from every angle. They are famous for preparing 80-page documents when six or seven pages would suffice. They think they are preparing for every contingency when such a feat is impossible.
- Some fear not getting the glory. This symptom is another facet of insecurity. The leader is fearful of letting go of anything if the result is someone else getting credit. Instead of being the type of leader who desires to see others become successful, he or she desires all the recognition. Such is a miserable existence that is doomed for failure.
Rarely does a non-delegating leader have all of these symptoms. But it does not matter if he or she has one or multiple symptoms if the end result is a failure to delegate. And a failure to delegate inevitably leads to a failure of leadership.