Also known as laissez fair, the delegating leadership style somewhat employs a hands-off approach, where the leader would place great responsibility on his subordinates, including lower-level managers and staff members, thus the French term, which means non-interference in other people’s affairs. Employees, who have the confidence to make decisions and good skills to analyze situations, may thrive under this leadership style.
Delegation is one of the styles of leadership that is valuable in certain situations, but is still to be implemented wisely. Leaders, who use this approach to avoid responsibility or shift blame, are misusing their role. To make it work, delegating leaders should prioritize tasks and make their subordinates feel that their abilities are trusted for certain initiatives. They should not be afraid to use this style when it is in the best interest of their business or organization.
Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey were the first individuals to describe the delegating leadership style in the late 1960s, pointing out a delegating leader to be willing to turn over responsibility for problem-solving and decision-making to his followers, who in turn would decide if their leader needs to be involved to complete a certain task.
While being proponents of situational leadership, where leaders change their styles to the job function or workplace environment, Blanchard and Hersey characterized leadership styles in terms of tasks and relationships between leaders and followers. According to them, the delegating leadership style could be the most effective when followers have the skills, knowledge and experience to accomplish the task at hand and when they are comfortable with taking responsibility. For the delegating leader, he should provide guidance in decision-making process and then delegate to his followers the responsibility of task completion, of which progress he has to monitor.
Supporters of the delegating leadership style believe that it is good for encouraging employees who would not take on a larger role, while opponents think that it can result to reduced productivity. For a well-informed opinion, here are the pros and cons of this leadership approach.
The Pros of the Delegating Leadership Style
1. It increases satisfaction with work.
If an employee was able to take the initiative to complete a task on his own, then he would have an increased level of satisfaction with his work. This means this type of leadership can provide people a good way to take matters into their own hands and accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
2. It encourages people who are self-motivated.
Delegation is great for those who are self-motivated and do not need to be constantly instructed every step of the way. If someone has a strong internal motor and can thrive when left with his resources, this style of leadership can certainly work for him.
3. It still necessitates having leaders.
While this leadership approach generally means that leaders are going to be hands-off, it does not imply that they are not going to be available for consultation. Rather than making cumbersome rules, they are there to offer helpful advice.
The Cons of the Delegating Leadership Style
1. It will not work with people who are not self-motivated.
One reason why many organizations do not employ delegation is that most people lack reliable self motivation. Unless you point them in a certain direction, they would not always know the right path to take.
2. It risks delegating to people who lack knowledge.
Talent, self-motivation and ambition—these factors are surely helpful, but they cannot substitute knowledge. Remember that making the right decisions and completing tasks properly are typically best left to a knowledgeable mind.
3. It can lead to minimal cohesiveness.
One big drawback of the delegating leadership style is lack of cohesiveness, which results from a leader not having direct involvement with decisions that are made. In many cases, it is difficult to reach a consensus when group members are given the responsibility to make decisions, as everyone would have his/her own ideas and suggestions.
Ensuring the Delegating Leadership Style Works
Leadership styles are situational and depend on the team, members’ knowledge and capabilities, the task at hand, the tools available, and the desired results.
Business owners, managers, supervisors and team leaders should make daily decisions about the right approach to use in any work situation. For the delegating leadership style, employee involvement and empowerment should be fostered to enable everybody to contribute their best efforts. Here are some tips for successful delegation:
When it is possible, give the delegated person a whole task to do. If ever this is not possible, make sure he understands the overall purpose of the task. You can also connect him to the group that is planning or managing the work. Remember that staff members can contribute most effectively when they see the big picture.
Make sure the staff exactly understands what he is about to do. Watch how the work is being done, ask questions or have him give feedback to ensure instructions were understood.
If you have a picture of the successful output or outcome, share it with the staff. You surely wants to make him right and do not want to fool him into believing that any outcome will suffice, unless you really feel that way.
Identify the project’s key points or dates when you want feedback about progress, as this is a very important way to gather feedback without the need to micromanage a direct report or team. You need to make sure that the delegated project or task is on track, as well as take advantage of the opportunity to influence everyone’s decisions and the project’s direction.
Identify the outcome or the measurements you need to determine that the task will be completed successfully, which would make performance development planning less subjective and more measurable.
Think about, in advance, the ways you can reward or thank the delegated members for the successful completion of the project or task that was delegated to them.
Successfully using delegation of authority as a leadership style would take more energy and time, but it is worth to make employees involved and empowered. It is good to know that you have helped them develop, succeed and meet your expectations, while building their confidence.