A Guide to Delegating Your Authority (Part 1)

By | January 28, 2021

[January 28, 2021]  My first evaluation as an Infantry Company Commander said that I was ‘resistant to delegating authority.’  It was an insult, in my mind anyway, and an embarrassment as well.  I knew that the art of leadership is not about ordering people around but finding the right people, delegating tasks to them, and giving them the freedom to get the job done.

I knew that my company would not succeed if I tried to do everything myself.  Soldiers are people too, and if had tried to do their job – as well as my job – they would be happy to let me do it.  Every experienced soldier knows that it would not take long before I ‘flamed out’ doing too many things at once.  My capacity as a leader, I knew, should not determine the capacity of my company.

Failure was never in my wheelhouse.  Because I hated failure, I quickly learned how (or was forced how) delegating my authority gained many advantages.  I could now take on tasks and missions that exceeded my ability.  If I had tried to do more by myself, I would not have had the expertise, and it would have been demotivating to my soldiers, a waste of time, and annoying.

Delegating authority is not magic.  It is all about distributing the workload and allocating smaller tasks, spread among many team members or organizations.

The three main features of delegating authority:

  1. Assigning tasks: A leader assigns other team members specific tasks to be completed within a given timeframe and with a given minimum quality standard.
  2. Granting authority: Team members are given the authority to complete the task, to act independently, and in the name of the leader.
  3. Insuring Accountability: This is where the leader holds each team member accountable for their actions on the job. Usually, this is accomplished by the introduction of rules and regulations.  The leader remains responsible for the overall task and thus requires feedback within the team.

There are many advantages to the delegating of authority.  Any given task or mission can be performed better, faster, with higher quality, and less disruption.  Subordinates learn that they are useful and essential, and this helps provide motivation.  Delegating also helps subordinates learn about leadership and gain technical knowledge about the task.  And by delegating, it leads to better relationships.

Tomorrow, I’ll offer up steps in the delegation process.

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.

21 thoughts on “A Guide to Delegating Your Authority (Part 1)

  1. Colleen Ramirez

    I liked your two part series, Gen. Satterfield. I guess that is your way of turning a longer article into two so that we don’t get bored. Don’t worry, just put it into one article.

  2. Stacey Borden

    January 28, 1986 – The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff. This is the 35th anniversary. While a defective O- ring was blamed, part of the problem was the media’s insistence to launch as soon as possible. We should never forget.

  3. rjsmithers

    “Delegating authority is not magic.” Great quote, IMO, and something we should all put on our desk to remember. Authority is not something that is given to a leader by accident (or if it is, the mistake is quickly corrected). That means the leader must be humble to show their appreciation for the gift they have received and use it morally and legally to do the best they can for their community and organization.

  4. Big Al

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s installment. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield.

  5. Jonathan B.

    Another on-target article from the depths of Gen. Satterfield’s experience. We had best pay close attention to his thinking and that of those who are also successful. That is how we can be better leaders.

  6. Jerome Smith

    Superb article that most young leaders will simply dismiss, in my opinion. THey really don’t care much about what ‘delegating authority’ is about, the challenges, the struggles, and the human psychology that always seems to work against it. Keep up the great works, Gen. Satterfield. I’ve always been and continue to be a big fan.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      We are all big fans, Jerome. That’s why we keep coming back. This website is both educational and entertaining. That’s what leaders do.

  7. Jonnie the Bart

    I’m also looking forward to Part 2 of this mini-series, Gen. Satterfield. When ever you have two parts (or more) to an article it certainly gets my thinking juices going.

  8. Steve Dade

    hey man, great site. loving coming here and reading the comments of so many educated folks and seeing what logic can be applied to the art and science of leadership.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Yep, pretty good place to throw ideas up against the wall and see what sticks. You can be assured that no one will be cursing at you or trying to destroy you but will attempt to first understand your position and then help build your argument stronger. Then we can talk about the merits.

      1. Max Foster

        THE BIGGEST advantage is exactly that Tom. A place of ideas that can debated – logically and politely – helps us all. Censorship, like is being practiced today by big social media companies and supported by big government thru Joe Biden and Kamala Harris should immediately STOP. I fear that Biden-Harris administration does not have the ability or courage to do anything about the blatant censorship and cancel culture that is occurring all around them. Stand up folks, be counted on the side of freedom, don’t give in.

        1. Jonnie the Bart

          Well said, Max. Fear of the radical leftists is why Pres Biden is supporting censorship. Maybe he doesn’t realize it but he is being very divisive and that is a bad thing for a president to do.

  9. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

    Greetings readers! Working on my iPad , I accidently deleted this post along with all the comments. I guess that I was stupid today. My apologies to those who posted comments earlier.

    1. Randy Goodman

      Hey, Gen. Satterfield, I wondered what happened. BTW, great job on your leadership site. It’s the go-to-place for me and many of my work colleagues.

    2. Doug Smith

      Great thanks. I too wondered what was going on. Well, sometimes we all have a hiccup in what we do. 😊😊😊

      1. JT Patterson

        Yes, but this is indeed a very rare thing for Gen. Satterfield to do. This forum is generally pretty good at understanding the ins and outs of maintaining a website. Good work!!! Let’s keep the useful comments coming this way.

    3. Paul D. Sanders

      …. and I forgot what I wrote earlier. Maybe it was the greatest thing I’d ever written and now it’s gone. Just kidding. Thanks for the note about what the heck happened.


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