When to Delegate

Most good writers on delegation suggest that decisions should be delegated to the lowest possible level of the organization. This will free up the time of top management. It will allow the individual closest to the problem to make the decision, and usually the decision is a better one. It will also develop the people as they make decisions.

1. Delegate any decision of a routine nature
2. Delegate any decision to be followed by a report (for final approval) or a decision requiring consultation.
3. Delegate when the big jobs that need to be done are not getting done.
4. Delegate when the leader is overworked and deadlines for work are being missed.
5. Delegate when the leader’s time is being spent on trivial tasks.
6. Delegate when subordinates can, with some training, carry out responsibilities
better than the leader.
7. Delegate when a new staff member is added.
8. Delegate when the work load on the staff becomes unbalanced.
9. Delegate when the staff wants more responsibility. When men need new worlds to conquer, give them more to do.
10. Delegate when special events occur.
11. Delegate when associates are coming to you for too many decisions and interrupting you from doing more important work.

A leader should be very careful about delegating some specific areas of responsibilities. A leader should never delegate a duplicate of his own job. He should exercise caution when delegating executive actions, such as goal setting, establishing major policy, coordination, discipline, and evaluation.

Delegation process

Even when the leader is ready to delegate, it cannot be done unless the subordinates are ready for it. There are some things a leader can do to prepare subordinates for delegation. A good example or model for them to observe is one of the best aids to preparing others for delegation. The leader needs to be this model leader. The leader can also use questions to make his followers think and understand why things are done as they are, and this will help them to develop. Matters can be delegated first that will require some reporting back, which will give some freedom, but also maintain control. Finally, when a subordinate is ready, work can be delegated to him with freedom to make decisions, even mistakes, and to sink or swim.

The steps to follow when delegating have been laid out by many writers:
First, decide on the duties to be delegated. Generally delegate tasks that are lower in priorities and higher in time consumption.
Second, select qualified workers for delegation. This is a matter of timing. As a worker grows, he will be ready to assume more responsibility and authority and therefore is ready for additional tasks to be delegated to him.
Third, communicate with the worker the task. Make the duties clear. State the end result first. Do not give methods; put the worker on his own.
Fourth, provide the necessary training to do the task.
Fifth, motivate the worker to accomplish the task. Let him know he is really responsible and accountable for doing the task. Be sure he understands the importance of the job and how it relates to the total program.
Finally, establish controls, including an understanding of the limits of authority and reporting back dates. The authority should equal the responsibility.

After a task has been delegated, then communicate with the group as to the responsibility and authority of the worker. Check up on progress, correct as necessary. Follow through on what is delegated. The leader is still responsible. Recognize that in the beginning it may take more time to delegate than to do it yourself, but the investment of time will pay dividends. Give praise where it is deserved.

Another very simple process for delegation has been suggested:
1. “I do it.” (The leader does the job.)
2. “You and I do it.” (The leader looks for someone willing to help and involves them in the task.)
3. “You do it, and I will support you.” (The leader gradually transfers the leadership to the other person, but the leader stays close and gives support.)
4. “You do it, and I will move on.” (The leader lets the subordinate assume the responsibility and releases the control.)


In the preceding chapter, organizing was introduced. Principles were presented along with how to prepare an organizational chart. This chapter is a continuation of the task of organizing and treats the work of organizing. Three sections will deal with the three parts of the work: delegation, coordination, and human relations.


The first part of organizing is to subdivide the work and to assign it to others in the group. This is the work of delegation. Delegation of the work is a major part of the task of organizing.


Delegation is the assigning and entrusting of responsibility, authority, accountability, and freedom for the performance of a part of a leader’s work. It is the pushing down of authority from superior to subordinate. It is distributing the work and authority in such a manner that the skills of subordinates will best be utilized in terms of reaching the objective. Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” That is what delegation is all about.

In a broader sense, delegation is the assigning of tasks to subordinates, but it must be viewed as more than just giving orders. Giving orders would be like telling a person to turn the thermostat up or down. Delegation is when a person is told to monitor the room temperature and adjust the thermostat as needed. That person is put in charge.

The larger an organization becomes, the more necessary it will be for the leaders at the top to delegate. The more responsibility a leader has, then the more of his work he must delegate. The larger an organization becomes, the more an administrator must concern himself with long-range planning and major policies and procedures, and the less he will concern himself with specific details. A chart, prepared for business men, can easily be adapted to the large church staff situation to show how much should be delegated:

1. Pastor (president) – 95% of the work to be delegated
2. Minister of Education (vice president) – 75% of work to be delegated
3. Junior Pastor (department head) – 50% of work to be delegated
4. Maintenance Supervisor (foreman) – 25% of work to be delegated.

The pastor in a large church today can delegate almost all of his work to associates, except for the preaching. A church business administrator can do much of the administering. Associates can do the counseling and visitation. The preaching part is a part that the senior pastor is expected to perform in today’s society.


There are many advantages to using delegation. Delegation will:

1. Relieve the pressure on the leader as he passes responsibility downward as Moses did in Exodus 18
2. Allow the leader more time for planning and evaluating
3. Make the leader more promotable because he can do more demanding tasks, and is training a replacement
4. Ensure the work continues when the leader is absent. Jesus delegated to his disciples to carry on His work at the ascension (Matthew 28:19–20).
5. Develop leadership in subordinates as they accept the responsibility and the authority and are given the freedom to do a job. It prepares them for a more responsible future position
6. Make a routine job more satisfying to the workers
7. Increase motivation, challenge, and interest

Delegation is a sign of good leadership. In one study the leaders that were rated as excellent made the most use of delegation.

Leader is still responsible

One important concept to keep in mind is that the leader is still ultimately responsible for the part of his job which he has delegated. Therefore, delegation must always include some type of reporting back. The leader should always be available and ready to give help as needed. The leader should never relinquish the total control through delegation. He should give the subordinate as much freedom as he deserves and can use wisely.

A person can give freedom or authority by degrees. At least three levels can be identified.

(1) The person may not act until he has been given approval.

(2) The person may have authority to act, but must report his actions to his supervisor.

(3) A person may have enough authority to act without prior approval, or even a report of progress. The third type is an extreme. If a worker reports back a number of times and the action is accepted, then he may assume it is permissible to go to the third type. His action is viewed as a policy action.

One way to give freedom and yet maintain control is to set follow-up dates along the way. These check points are built in during the initial planning. They should be displayed in a way that everyone can see progress. This reporting system should be built in so that people can follow-up on themselves. Some workers will require a lot of follow-up, and others will require only a very little. Always remember the old maxim, “people do what we inspect, not what we expect.”

Reasons delegation is not used

If delegation is so good, then why is it that every leader doesn’t do it? This question has many answers. Some leaders think all their job must be done by them personally. They may think that no one else can do anything good enough. Some leaders think that it will take more time and effort to find someone, train them, and check up on them doing a job than it would take them to do it in the first place.