A Guide to Delegating Your Authority (Part 2)

By | January 29, 2021

[January 29, 2021]  We already know, as leaders, that delegating authority is difficult but necessary.  Yesterday in Part 1 (link here), I gave an example from my time as an Infantry Company Commander.  This is the kind of job that allows you to see your men face-to-face and get to know every one of them.  Feedback on your ability to lead is nearly instantaneous.  That’s the good news.

When a leader lets go of some of their authority to get a job done, others in their organization have a chance to grow.  That is how I learned.  As a Platoon Leader, my Company Commander gradually gave me more tasks with greater importance, and he also provided me with authority to do the job.  If I were to get any pushback, he told me to tell them that I represented him.  In other words, he had my back.

Here are five recommendations to help the delegation process move along:

  1. Pick the Right Person: This is difficult and beyond today’s discussion, but most of us know what this means.  Choose someone who has proven themselves, has the right attitude and is a hard worker.  Don’t choose someone who sees themselves as a victim or who has a bad attitude.
  2. Provide Clear and Precise Instruction: The subordinate you chose to carry out an assigned task must be clear about the expectations, standards, obstacles, and history.  This is a recommendation often overlooked, frequently with unintended but predictable problems.
  3. Give Sufficient Authority: A problem with delegating is not giving enough authority and then saddling that individual with too much responsibility.  Responsibility without authority is a recipe for disaster.
  4. Provide Assistance: I had a commander who had the philosophy of “fire and forget.” Once he was assigned a task with authority to go along with it, he ignored the consequences and found his soldiers wanting.  He failed to remain part of the process and left his men to flounder in their work.
  5. Reduce Risks: When possible, reduce outside risks to that person who is being tasked.  Protect them but keep them informed about what you are doing.  When you teach, mentor, and teach, you reduce unnecessary risks that could jeopardize the project.

Delegating authority may go against our psychological thinking, but any leader with experience knows that this is the only way to succeed.  Doing so provides for a positive work environment, and the results will be better than one can imagine.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton

 Remember always that a leader can delegate authority but can never delegate responsibility.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “A Guide to Delegating Your Authority (Part 2)

  1. Max Foster

    Implied in what Gen. Satterfield wrote here in this article is that people have a deep-seated desire NOT to share their authority. I believe, because we see it universally, that this pheonom is somehow inborn. Leadership is not inborn (or is it to a degree). Being inborn, “sharing” or “delegating authority” is not an easy thing to do. I would like to see a professional article that takes up the subject. If anyone knows of an article like this, please let me know. I couldn’t find one that wasn’t corrupted by politics. Today, you cannot trust even the professional publications because of they have allowed themselves to be corrupted by political correctness.

    Reply
    1. Audrey

      Max, — excellent points. We should all be careful in reading any NEWS or any ARTICLES because of this corruption. First they began with little lies and have now slipped down a great slope where anything goes.

      Reply
      1. Linux Man

        Well said, Audrey ….. Our entire society is being corrupted. If we look back over time, we see the outright rejection of religion and individual hard work. The very things that our society was built upon is being torn down. The results are largely predictable.

        Reply
    2. Pink Cloud

      Yes, well said, Max. Oh, thanks BTW. We need more info of this nature and maybe you could write an article on it. Perhaps Gen. S. would take it under consideration.

      Reply
  2. Colleen Ramirez

    I agree with Gen. Satterfield here. This list is comprehensive but, a small but, is that I would like to see more detail. Perhaps a future blog post on any or all of these as a single subject. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Silly Man

    A recommendation for Gen. Satterfield. Please write an article on HOW TO REDUCE RISKS. This one is complex and down right hard to do. Thanks for listening. 😊

    Reply
  4. Emily Baker

    Gen. S., you list of 5 is spot on. I couldn’t think of any others to put here but I will say that #2 is where most people/leaders fail. Proper – clear and concise – communications is crucial and should never be overlooked.
    One way to do this is to make the complex seem simple. Just thinking here.

    Reply
    1. Anya B.

      Right Emily. Communication is almost always the number one failure of leaders.

      Reply
  5. Eduardo Sanchez

    Gen. Satterfield, a great follow up to yesterday’s article. My wife, however, says this article is “boring.” I say that, not because I think so, but you might think about it. Maybe include a story like you did yesterday. Just my humble opinion.

    Reply
  6. Dennis Mathes

    #1. Pick the right person. IMHO, this is one of the most important. But remember that picking the right person means also, in the past, to have worked with this person to help make them the right person.

    Reply
    1. Jonathan B.

      Correct, and something too often taken for granted. Great employees don’t just walk in off the street (well, maybe on that rare occasion). So, be prepared to train, mentor, and teach them the ways of great leadership.

      Reply
      1. Bart Rhodes

        Specific programs, set aside, to do this is required. You cannot “assume” they absorb it via some form of leadership osmosis.

        Reply
        1. Tom Bushmaster

          Thanks Otto for the reference.
          My favorite from the article.
          8. They Look for Leadership Opportunities
          Whether it’s offering to lead a project team, volunteering to mentor a junior employee, or taking it upon themselves to train the new interns, people who want to (and do!) get promoted don’t wait for leadership opportunities to come from them—they look around, see where a leader is needed, and jump in.

          Reply
  7. rjsmithers

    Yesterday, in my comments, I discussed briefly about how leaders should be ‘humble’ for their positions of authority. This is what helps imperfect leaders overcome some of the minor bumps along their way toward a more perfect (yet never achieved) leadership role. Gen. Satterfield, in this article, is pointing to the same thing – in different words – and yet we all could learn something that makes us better by practicing his suggestions.

    Reply
    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      Good comment RJ. Thanks. I too like this website on leadership by Gen. Satterfield, and have given it out to many friends of mine. I appreciate your comment on being ‘humble’ but let’s not forget that to be a leader means many things and this is only one of a dozen or so key character traits.

      Reply

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