How To Delegate Authority

Agustina Scorticati Louro
Jan 22, 2024
6 min read

Little is said about how leaders should navigate the delicate balance between assigning tasks and inspiring commitment. In our journey today, we'll discover how leaders can learn to delegate by making clear plans, inspire commitment, and learn some smart moves from a leadership expert John C. Maxwell.

Delegate Clearly

Delegation begins with the clarity of purpose. Leaders must be architects of precision, laying the groundwork for success through the definition of desired outcomes. This involves setting specific objectives, clear performance metrics, and establishing expected outcomes before assigning tasks to the team. Alongside this, a leader conducts an honest assessment of the team's ‘task maturity’, making sure each member is assigned responsibilities aligned with their capabilities.

Inspiring Commitment and Communication

Effective delegation is not just about tasks; it's about promoting commitment and open communication. Leaders must initiate the delegation process by providing a compelling context for tasks, inspiring commitment from their team members. Furthermore, maintaining an open-door policy becomes the communication channel, allowing team members to seek support and encouragement when facing challenges.

Strategic Decision-Making in Delegation

In delegation, leaders make smart choices like using a compass. They say "yes" to things they're good at, "no" to things they're not, and "yes, if" they can pass tasks to the right people. It's like picking the right tools for the job.

Practice Saying "Yes," "No," and "Yes, If": Let's see a practical example to demonstrate how strategic decision-making in delegation works. We have Lucas, a team leader with a lot of knowledge for marketing strategies. In a real life project scenario, when Lucas is approached with a new marketing campaign, he confidently says 'yes' to take the lead.

However, when a technical project involving coding a new software feature comes his way, Lucas wisely says “no”, recognizing that it’s not a skill he counts on. Now, here's where the magic happens. Instead of leaving the project in limbo, Lucas employs the strategic 'yes, if' approach. He delegates the coding task to Marina, a team member known for her coding skills.

Here's a practical breakdown for your own strategic decision-making in delegation:

  1. Assess Your Strengths: Identify areas where you excel and confidently say 'yes' to tasks that align with your expertise.

  2. Acknowledge Limits: Recognize when a task is beyond your skill set, and confidently say 'no.' This is crucial for effective delegation.

  3. Strategic Delegation - “Yes, If”: When saying 'no,' be prepared to follow up with a “yes, if” strategy. Identify a team member with the necessary skills and delegate accordingly.

    Following these steps makes sure you use your team's strengths for each task. This not only helps get more work done but also makes the team work together better and faster!

  4. Be Selective: Recognizing the importance of selectivity and strategically choosing tasks aligned with expertise. This approach ensures meaningful contributions and prevents burnout, ultimately benefiting the entire team.

Creating a Culture of Development

John C. Maxwell, an author of leadership development, unveils his strategy for creating a culture of development. Let's explore Maxwell's ideas and see how this method turns delegation into a boost for both individual and team success.

Giving Away Everything You Can

Maxwell's approach begins with a fundamental principle: If someone else can handle a task better than you, let them. Identifying his core strengths, Maxwell delegates administrative and financial tasks to experts, ensuring that each task aligns with the individual's proficiency.

Imagine you're a team leader with a strength in creative thinking and your team includes a member skilled in financial analysis, consider entrusting them with budget-related tasks. This way, you will make good use of their expertise, ensuring that financial matters are handled with precision while allowing you to focus on unleashing your creative potential for the team.

The 80% Rule

Central to Maxwell's strategy is the 80% rule. If someone can perform a task at least 80% as well as the leader, it becomes a candidate for delegation. This empowers leaders to focus on their strengths while entrusting tasks to team members who can execute them competently.

If you excel at project management, but one of your team members is proficient at organizing and coordinating tasks. Instead of overloading yourself, delegate some project coordination responsibilities to them. While they may not do it exactly as you would, if they can handle it at least 80% as well, it frees up your time to concentrate on higher-level project management tasks.

Training for Potential

He highlights discovering potential within the team and dedicating time to training. Consider his writer, Charlie Wetzel, as an example. Maxwell demonstrates how training someone with at least 80% potential in a task proves valuable. Team members not only understand how the leader thinks but also get better at it over time.

Let’s say you have a team member who shows potential in a specific skill, like data analysis, but lacks experience. Instead of shying away from delegating such tasks, invest time in training. Provide resources, share your thought processes, and offer constructive feedback. Over time, as you nurture their abilities, they become proficient, contributing more effectively to the team's goals.

Assessing Your Delegating Style

Maxwell tells leaders to think about how they delegate. Are there tasks they're keeping that take time away from important things? Are they giving out tasks without enough training? When leaders spend time training their team, it builds trust. This trust helps the team handle even the most important tasks well. According to Maxwell, this way of delegating doesn't just help individuals grow, but it also makes the whole team more successful.


Think of this like a music band where everyone has their special instruments. We learned from John C. Maxwell that it's smart for leaders to share tasks wisely, let others handle things about 80% as well, and teach new skills to the team. Just like a conductor leads a band, a leader guides the team, making sure each person's strengths add up to a great performance!

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