Balancing What We Own, Share and Delegate

Posted By John Camardo on Mar 18, 2014 | 2 comments


Every effective leader has come to a place where they decide how they will lead their team.

Whether they realize it or not, based on past experiences leaders will tend to either repeat some form of what they have seen modeled (if it was healthy) or they will try and do the opposite of what they experienced (typically because it was unhealthy).

I want to spend some time in this post working through what I have observed and learned along the way – both in how I am personally leading as well as how I have encouraged leaders who choose a different leadership approach. (Quick reminder here that the most effective leaders will be able to lead and develop those who do not do things the same way they do!)

What many refer to as an “old school” method of leading is more of a “command and control” model where the leader owns and controls all aspects of leadership. Everything has to pass through them, or their hands are in every aspect of what the team does or accomplishes. For example, while in a meeting setting, all eyes go to this leader because the team has been paralyzed to make decisions on their own without consent.

When someone leads this way, they eventually have:

  • limited influence over time,
  • no development of those following, and
  • an eventual collapse when that leader moves on (for whatever reason).

So, what oftentimes happens with new leaders that come up under a command and control methodology is they approach leading at the other end of the spectrum – a high delegation model. This model thrives on giving leadership away. Most times this leadership style presents as heavy delegation without ownership. This may sound like a great approach to some, but if some aspects of leadership are not owned by the leader, chaos and disorganization occurs.

In a recent conversation with my good friend Daryl Largis (one the strongest leaders I know), we spent some time working through this topic philosophically and landed here…

From a leadership perspective, there are three major buckets of responsibilities:

  • what is owned,
  • what is shared, and
  • what is delegated

A good leader needs to be able to balance and box in all three components instead of focusing all their energy on just one bucket.

What most people see are leaders that own most everything and don’t share or delegate. This was that “command and control” approach I mentioned earlier and it does very little in developing those around the leader. So, we need to land in a place where there is some balance.

You may be asking – why balance? Isn’t delegation the best way to develop someone?

Yes and no…let me explain.

If a leader has the capacity, capability and responsibility to lead, they need to understand what they need to own in order to lead in a way that will allow them to meet the expectations of their leadership and team and still have the freedom to release leadership capacity in those they serve with.

A leader needs to determine (typically through conversation with their leadership) where ultimate accountability and authority must remain with them.

Leaders can’t give away ultimate authority or responsibility and still be the primary guardian of your mission and vision.

A high shared model allows delegation with a clear structure for ownership, authority and responsibility. I personally tend to lead this way given the broad scope of responsibility I have organizationally. Through regular interaction with leaders in each area of responsibility, I have the ability to stay connected to what they are doing while releasing them to lead fully within their context.

For those who choose a high delegation model, they are choosing to manage a rather complex leadership model…it’s not wrong, just different and more complex. Sustaining a complex, delegation rich environment requires a high degree of leadership maturity.

If you choose to lead this way, here are a few questions you should regularly ask yourself as I believe they cannot be fully delegated without compromising your voice as a leader:

  1. Where is your voice in the midst of all activity delegated? (notice that I didn’t say your hands…I am referring to your voice of influence)
  2. How are you continuing to manage and keep a close eye on financials?
  3. How are you effectively developing people around you?
  4. How are you driving strategic planning and direction? (remember, the leader must be the primary guardian of mission and vision – not the only guardian, but the primary one)
  5. How are you keeping your ‘finger on the pulse’ in all areas shared or delegated?
  6. Regularly ask yourself what you are learning as you progress through this model. How are you adjusting based on what you learn?

All leaders, even those who prefer a high delegation approach, need to be a coach, confidant, facilitator and motivator…all at the same time. In short, all leaders need to be connected to the who, what and when as they will be the driving voice behind the ‘why’.

If this post had an effect on you, take some time now or in the near future and think about how you are leading and if there are any course corrections you need to make based on what you just read.

I hope this was helpful to you and I look forward to hearing your stories, so be sure to share what you learn along the way!

2 Comments

  1. Great points John. That firm grip of leadership by control and command usually turns into a chokepoint under which progress is limited and failure eminent.

    The high delegation model reminds me of someone I worked with in the military. All he would say is “handle it, handle it” while using his hand to motion you away. For those that could do…it was carte blanche for running things the way you thought they should be run. For those that couldn’t do, it was an opportunity to pass the buck even further down the line…some would mimic the actual hand gestures of this guy as they passed on ineffective ritualized orders rather than teaching their team how to see the overall mission.

    I love the shared model.

    Post a Reply
    • Awesome feedback, Don…thanks for sharing!

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