The art of delegation – 3

Now that the first case of the dreaded Corona Virus Disease has been declared in Nigeria, it behooves everyone of us to take necessary precautions. This was bound to happen. Nigeria is an important commercial destination in Africa. But if we beat the Ebola Virus, we will also beat this. Don’t panic, just take the necessary precautions like the regular washing of your hands and other things advised by the Federal Ministry of Health. If you can avoid international travels for now – especially to countries where the pandemic has recorded significant fatalities – until this blows over, please do so. I learnt over the weekend that a pharmacy in Lagos actually sold a 500ml bottle of hand sanitizer for N19,950! Talk about profiting from a collective dilemma. Sheer insensitivity!


Our discourse continues.

Leaders who don’t delegate assignments overwhelm themselves with work to the level of exhaustion. Executive inertia is largely a product of burnout. And burnouts are largely traceable to the individual’s attempt to do more than he normally should.

Without doubt, you have seen their type; managers and leaders who cling to work as if it is their spouse. They feel uncomfortable when they are not the ones directly doing the job. They carry files home at the end of office hours. As retirement approaches, they begin to feel uncomfortable and irritable. They hardly go on holiday because they believe that the weight of the establishment is upon their shoulders. They are the first to arrive the office and the last to leave. More often than not, people in this mould have underlying personal issues and to escape them or the haunting memories of a nagging past, they simply bury themselves in work, largely operating alone. Such people make terrible team members. What they fail to realize is that being busy is not the same as being productive! For some, their inability to delegate stems from a terribly low self-esteem. People with self-esteem issues usually compensate for their deep-seated insecurity by occupying themselves with activities that make them appear very preoccupied, especially if it also makes them feel needed and important.

Another reason why some leaders find it difficult to delegate work is the Messiah Complex that creates a delusion of indispensability. The highest form of delusion is for anyone to have the assumption that the weight of an entire organization or a department of it is on their shoulders. I hate to rain on your parade; but try this exercise. Play dead and find a means to break the news to your current employers. Wait to see how long it would take for them to find someone to replace you. You will be shocked by how quickly and easily one of the people you refused to empower through delegation will step into your shoes. And the beat goes on! Nobody enjoys the monopoly of knowledge. So, nobody is indispensable. If you had to leave or if you die, the organization may miss you for a few days but they will quickly adjust and find a replacement for you. Because you refused to empower anyone to perform, your successor may stumble through certain things at the initial stage. But trust me, he will adjust soon enough and cope very well!

Leaders who don’t have a habit of having their work planned find it difficult to delegate work. A plan gives a clear picture of the road map to a desired outcome. Specific tasks can be delegated within the scope of the plan. On-the-spur-of-the-moment, impulsive leadership breeds confusion because nobody around such a leader really knows what he wants done at a given time. Truth be told, he himself very often has no clue. Spontaneity has its advantages but when it has to do with leadership that wants to empower others, work must be defined and planned. Nobody can find what is not defined. Until something is specific, it cannot be dynamic.

Perfectionism is a principal enemy of delegation. When a leader is a perfectionist, he has little or no tolerance for errors. He is very critical of other’s errors that he doesn’t want any mistakes from his own department. So, in his own wisdom, the only way to avoid anyone making errors on what he wants done is to do it himself. Perfectionism is however not synonymous with excellence or effectiveness. As a matter of fact, perfectionism is the main reason why a lot of things that would have become great didn’t get off the ground. The perfectionist is more concerned with getting things right than he is with getting it going! He does not understand the wisdom of scriptures that says that those who wait for all conditions to be right will never get anything done.

When you fence your subordinates from sharing in your work, you shut off the possibility of benefitting from the array of talents and capacities that may surround you as a leader.

To get the best out of his followers, a leader must repose a considerable level of trust in them. Trust is a two-way traffic. As much as he expects them to trust his leadership, a leader must learn to trust the capacity of his followers until they prove unworthy of such trust. When a leader cannot trust his followers, he will also find it difficult to delegate assignments to them.

Caught in the delusion of infallibility, some leaders believe that they know so much that they feel no one can match their knowledge on the job, especially in their organization. Leaders with this mindset are happy when the followers see them as the smartest ones around. This massages their ego to no end. However, when a leader proves to know everything and cannot receive ideas or inputs from others, he will also end up doing everything by himself. Nobody around him feels capable enough to handle anything because his belittling presence looms so large!

I have met leaders who literally work themselves to a grind for no other reason than that they are control freaks who always want to be in control. They believe that shared power is lost power. To them, giving out tasks also means giving out power. That makes them feel very vulnerable. Micromanaging has never been a management style that brings significant growth, if it brings any at all. If anything at all, it is the easiest way to hinder corporate development.

Great leaders don’t thrive by the quantum or quality of what they do by themselves but by what they are able to get done through others. Any leader who plans to be around for a long time must know that power is more effective when shared. Work is more fulfilling and less debilitating when it can be delegated.

In the next and final edition of this series, I will be looking at what delegation actually entails and how it can make life easier for the leader who wants to scale up his effectiveness level…continued


Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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