Many leaders find it hard to let go. They find it very hard to let other people run aspects of their project, their ministry. They feel a constant need to be in the center of everything, coordinating, keeping track, holding the project together. I know how this feels.
The thing is, this is a sure way to make a project fail. You inevitably become a bottleneck. People end up waiting for you to make decisions, your “say so” becomes important to the timeline. Inevitably, you will burn out, alienate people, be frustrated, and think it was everybody elses fault.
But think about this: This is not the principle on which God operates! He, being infinitely competent, and infinitely capable, has chosen to delegate the work of his Kingdom on earth to us, incompetent, incapable us. Why, because he knows that we need it in order to grow in our relationship with Him. If he does everything how will we glorify him?
So leveraging God’s principle of developing disciples through delegation, we as human leaders need to learn to delegate. We need to delegate, not only the easy stuff – the “hands” work. We also need to delegate the “brains” work – the decision making, the planning, the coordination. And finally we need to delegate the “mouth” work, the communication, the messaging, etc.
I find this last piece the hardest for ministry leaders to delegate, because for most of them it is their best skillset. Preachers (of many varieties) tend to be good communicators, or at least to perceive themself as such. Human nature dictates that the hardest things to allow others to do are the things that we are good at. We always want to leverage our strengths.
But in reality, delegation in leadership is not about getting other people to do the work. It is about leadership development. It is about participatory ownership. In Christian leadership, it is about discipleship.
Delegation is not dumping the work on someone, and watching to see whether they succeed or fail. Delegation is assigning responsiblity, developing accountability, building trust and engineering success.
Do those things sound good? Of course they do. Do you know how to do it, probably not. Most leaders (regardless of occupation) struggle with delegation. Lets talk about 4 principles of delegation:
Assign Responsibility – Responsibility is ownership. The responsible one must get the task done, the goal accomplished, the mission complete. But how do they know what to do? How do they know what not to do? To assign responsibility well, you must communicate clearly what done means. You need to clearly communicate any constraints or concerns about how things get done. You can offer a “game plan” but remember, execution is up to the responsible one. He may not do it the way you would. He will play to his strengths, not yours. God has done all these things for us in giving us the Living Word.
Develop Accountability – Accountability is the other side of responsibility. It is how you ensure he is doing OK. Accountability is about interaction. How frequently do you check up to see how things are going. How well do you respond to inquiries when he has questions or issues. To develop accountability in delegation, it is best to start with frequent formal communication. Over time, when the accountability relationship is established, this can become less frequent and less formal. Both of you need to learn how long you can go without communicating. God has done all these things for us by inviting us to relate directly to Him in prayer.
Build Trust – The responsible one needs to demonstrate that he can execute within mission constraints, get to done, demonstrate accountability by sharing information. The delegating leader needs to build trust by carefully articulating mission constraints, providing encouragement, responding to information in a safe, rational way. The delegating leader needs to build trust by not taking responsibility back when the delegatee is struggling, but by working with the individual to ensure success. The delegating leader needs be comfortable with the responsible person making the game plan his own. Trust is built when you allow them to succeed their own way. They will succeed best by playing to their own strengths. For many leaders this is frustrating to watch, yet if you make them do it “your way” they are more likely to fail. God has done this by giving us free will, through the Law, and finally through the principle of grace.
Engineer Success – When you delegate responsibility, YOU must engineer success by creating the means by which the responsible parties will MAKE themselves accountable. You engineer success, by ensuring that the responsible parties have the resources and information that they need. Until you understand the capacity of the responsible person to work independently, you collaborate frequently, establishing touch points, reviewing work plans. Until they are capable of predicting their resource needs, or the challenges they will face, you must do this for them, and youself be prepared to provide resources, and remove obstacles or challenges. If you delegate without doing these things, you are simply setting the responsible person up for failure. God has done this by “working all things to good for those who love Him.”
In the end, isn’t this exactly how God delegates the mission of His Kingdom to us? How amazing and utterly predictable that the best practices of leadership are found in the way God operates His Kingdom.