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July 17, 2023

The 6 Benefits of Delegation and Why Most Leaders Under-Delegate

Benefits of delegation

There are endless reasons leaders don’t tend to regularly delegate tasks.

  • “I’m not sure any of my team members are ready or prepared to do this work.”
  • “It will take longer to explain how to do this than to just do it myself.”
  • “I’m not sure anyone on my team can do this work as well as I can.”
  • “I don’t want to overburden my staff.”
  • “When I have more time, I can teach team members how to do this. For now, I just need to get it done.”
  • “If I delegate too much, I may lose respect. Peers or my own leadership team may start to see me as less essential.”

And the list goes on.

Yet what’s often missed when a leader fails to delegate is the simple fact that effective delegation is a cornerstone of great leadership. When leaders don’t delegate enough, they miss a chance to help their team grow, which is the essence of great leadership. Management expert Deborah Grayson Riegel wrote in a piece for Fast Company:

"In order to leverage the diverse strengths of your team and allow them to share and shine, you need to delegate. Delegating, when done well, not only reduces your own workload, it develops your employees, gives you and your team a bigger range of skills and impact, provides emergency back-up (since you’re not the only one who knows how to do something), creates inclusive opportunities, empowers people, and retains talent."

What is Delegating?

Delegating is the act of sharing or transferring responsibility for a task to another employee. While leaders often delegate work to members of their team, delegating can also take place among peers when a leader asks a colleague to share in a work responsibility, so an important project can get accomplished on a deadline.

Delegating can be especially challenging for managers but is a critical skill that the best leaders learn to master. Leadership experts argue that regularly delegating tasks can build a much stronger team and can be immensely beneficial for both leaders and employees when done well.

Delegation Examples

There are many examples of what delegating looks like, including:

  • A senior sales leader trains a group of interns how to write business proposals with a detailed guide, mentorship, and frequent check-ins to address questions and ensure the work is executed well.
  • Rather than hiring an outside consultant to develop a new website for the organization, a senior leader creates a team to manage the redesign project themselves. He empowers a graphic designer, marketing specialist, content writer, and senior communications leader to set the vision and make important choices for the work, but with the leader’s clear guidance on outcomes and expectations.
  • A hotel manager assigns a veteran employee to train all new employees on the company’s values and overall approach to customer service. The manager gives the employee discretion to design the training plan but with the manager’s guidance and support. The manager then provides support to the employee as the new training program is launched and ensures the training outcomes are regularly met.
  • A manager, feeling overwhelmed by an important project on deadline, assigns a highly organized employee to handle project management for the work and that person takes over part of the daily supervision, setting deadlines, and ensuring that all team members are following through on assignments in a timely and efficient process.
  • A senior member of a leadership team feels ready to hand off a task she has been handling for the team for many years. She asks peers on the leadership team if they might be willing to take over that responsibility, with her guidance and ongoing support.

Why Is Delegating Important?

Many studies have demonstrated the power of delegation in running effective teams. A Gallup study of 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list found that the most effective CEOs delegate to help their companies grow faster and build more revenue.

Gallup reported in a Business Journal article about the research:

“Founders who have and use high delegator talent can generate better business growth and venture success than leaders who get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of managing a business.”

Although delegation is critical to a company’s success, managers also need to remember that it’s not about just pushing off the boring or difficult jobs on others. It’s also important to understand that when delegating, leaders should provide consistent support yet with some autonomy, so employees still feel entrusted and empowered to do the work creatively or to suggest new or better ways of achieving the outcomes.

6 Benefits of Effective Delegating

From our own decades of experience working closely with executives and communicators at leading companies, we’ve identified six key benefits of effective delegating:

1. Delegating builds a culture of trust

One of the most important traits of great leaders is the ability to build a genuine culture of trust. After all, people want to follow leaders who they feel truly care about their team members and want to help them grow and develop. The best way to build that trust is to help your team know that you have confidence in their abilities and that you want them to be valuable contributors to the company’s overall success.

2. Delegating keeps you from putting too many irons in the proverbial fire

Leaders and managers are driven to succeed, and for this reason, they often take on more projects than they can handle alone. The fear of failure drives them to avoid delegation for fear that someone else will not get the job done correctly. When managers are juggling priorities at the same time, they are more likely to make mistakes. Delegating tasks to the right individuals is important in this case since it allows managers and leaders to focus on planning and organizing.

3. Delegating builds engagement among team members

Leaders who fail to delegate adequately often have employees who are afraid to take initiative or who feel apprehensive about bringing new ideas to the table. When employees truly feel that their skills and talents are being put to good use, they are engaged and happier overall.

4. Delegating stimulates creativity and develops skills in your team

Leaders who give their team members the freedom to tackle delegated tasks in their own way are actually empowering their team and giving them a creative license. These employees become driven to succeed, not only for themselves and their own futures, but also for the future of their employer. What’s more, this personal initiative can lead to creativity breakthroughs, which can benefit everyone involved, and it helps team members build some very specific skills along the way.

5. Delegating helps leaders achieve a better work-life balance

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders feel overwhelmed by a mounting list of responsibilities. In some cases, layoffs have thinned out teams, forcing leaders to take on more tasks that they don’t feel they have time to teach others. Yet when leaders take time to share responsibilities in a more team-based approach, they free up more time for the tasks most important to running an effective team. They also create more space for self-care, which helps to prevent burnout and keeps leaders motivated and excited about their roles.

6. Delegating creates a positive business culture overall

Consistent delegation helps to boost team morale, improve efficiency and productivity, and promotes enthusiasm, innovation, and cooperation – all of which are vital to a company’s bottom line. Delegating can also help reduce turnover rates, minimize safety risks, and supply the company with a group of highly-qualified employees who are experts at getting the job done right.

Reasons Why Leaders Continue to Under-Delegate

Even with so many clear benefits to delegating, leaders still resist it on a regular basis. It’s important to understand the regular patterns of resistance, so you can see your own blind spots when it comes to delegating – and work to overcome them.

In a piece for the Harvard Business Review, management expert and business school professor Grayson Riegel points to several consistent reasons leaders under-delegate, including:

  • Not knowing what they can delegate that would actually feel helpful to them
  • Not understanding what responsibilities could be a growth opportunity for members of their team
  • Not having role models who have shown them how to delegate successfully
  • Worry that delegating will make them look like they don’t know what they’re doing themselves

How to Start Delegating More Effectively 

One of the most effective first steps leaders can take to delegate better is recognizing what causes them to resist delegation and then listing those reasons out. Harvard Graduation School of Education faculty members Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey discuss this approach in their book, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization.

The researchers say that once you identify what’s holding you back, you can then start to address those issues head-on and begin to shift that mindset toward a more positive approach to delegating. This exercise can help leaders see how delegation might not only help them personally with their workload but also benefit their employees, expanding their skill sets to become even more effective and efficient contributors to the company’s overall success.

From our experience, here are some of the best tips for delegating more effectively within your organization.

1. Make the Outcomes Clear

Sometimes leaders make the mistake of not being clear about the desired results of a workstream out of fear of “micro-managing” their team members. Yet when employees aren’t clear about the expectations, they can be set up for failure. Each project that is handed off needs to be fully explained, and with full context on the need, why it’s important, and the basic parameters for doing the work well. This does not mean that you can’t give your team members creativity to achieve the outcomes in a different way than you went about it – you just need to ensure that they communicate along the way and follow a smart process to achieving the critical outcomes.

2. Match Tasks to Employees' Strengths

When you think about the tasks that need to be delegated, think about which employees would be a natural fit for the work. If it’s a project management job, your most organized employees are a natural match. Other work might call for a creative team member interested in storytelling or writing projects.

If you don’t know the natural skill sets of your team members, that’s a warning sign that you need to do a better job of getting to know your team members, what motivates them, and what their career goals are.

3. Provide the Right Level of Support

Sometimes it’s important to understand if the work you’re delegating requires specific training, resources, or authority. It’s the manager’s role to ensure that the person doing the task is empowered and not set up for failure. This may mean you need to clearly communicate to other team members that you are delegating full authority to a certain team member to achieve a task and that they’ll need the other team members’ support in accomplishing the work.


Clearly, delegation is a very difficult task. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t experience so many leaders resisting it on a regular basis. Yet when leaders fully embrace the many benefits of delegation, they hold the keys to unlocking much more potential and greatness from their teams. The effort will undoubtedly have multiple payoffs, most importantly enabling great leadership.

What do you see as the biggest benefits of delegation and how are you thinking about doing more delegating with your own team?

—David Grossman

Get insights on how to make a more meaningful work experience for your team, driving engagement and producing stronger results for the business. Download your free copy of the eBook A Persona of Today’s Employee here.

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