The Best Way for Leaders to Delegate

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Every authority on leadership recognizes the importance of delegating. We are not omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, or omni-temporal. In other words, we can’t do everything, be everywhere, know all the answers, or work all the time. Since we aren’t born with ten arms, we need help getting things done.

God is the only one in the universe who does not need help to accomplish things. Yet in his mysterious wisdom he has willed to create humans to play a part in his eternal plan for his glory. If God, who does not need help, invites us to take part in his mission, how much more should we church leaders find ways to enlist our church members to accomplish our vision for our church?

The problem with mere delegation

The practice of delegation, however, is not the Promised Land of exponential leadership. I know that it can feel like you have ten arms when you are guiding team members to accomplish a goal or project. Day by day as you pass out instructions, people get the tasks taken care of and you wonder how work could be more effective.

But what about when you are not available to guide your team?

When you are out of the office, does the work keep going just as well as if you were there? If you aren’t on your email, will people have unanswered questions that keep projects from moving forward? When you retire or transition to different role at another church, will everything you’ve built all of a sudden collapse?

When you are the common denominator of your church’s mission, you are also its greatest limiting factor. That is why you need a model of leadership that allows you to leverage your team even more than typical delegation allows.

Think “multiplication” rather than delegation

Leaders who understand the power of using the gifts, talents, and wisdom of others think in terms of “multiplying themselves” rather than delegating. What’s the difference? When you multiply yourself, you release an agent to accomplish a part of your mission according to their own devices. You give them free reign to figure out how to do it themselves. This relieves you, the leader, of having to provide so much direction and oversight. By stepping away, you free someone else to get after the goal, and you free yourself up to do even more of the tasks that only you can do.

You may be thinking, what about quality control? Before I address that, allow me to give you an example of a leader who utilized the “multiplication rather than delegation” style of leadership: the Apostle Paul.

Throughout his missionary ministry, Paul constantly sent his colleagues all over the Roman Empire to finish tasks, check up on churches, and solve major problems. Titus appointed church elders (1:5). Timothy checked in on how churches faired against conflict (Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Thess. 3:1-3) and was left to pastor a church with false teaching (1 Tim. 1:3). Tychicus was sent to encourage churches and report back to Paul how they were doing (Eph. 6:21-22; 2 Tim. 6:21-22; Titus 3:12).

Consider the amount of freedom – and opportunity to grow and develop – that was bestowed on these men. It’s not as if Paul could check up on them by emailing or texting them, or following their Twitter feed. Paul expected these guys to figure out how get the tasks done on their own. Can you imagine how much less Paul would have accomplished if he insisted on being onsite, and merely managed these gifted men? How might those whom you lead accomplish more if you released them in this fashion?

Three keys to multiplying yourself

Now let me answer the question I raised earlier. How can you ensure that things are done well when you are not close to the action? There are three keys, each of which relates to trust.

1. Multiply through people who buy into your vision and values. This means you can trust that they will act in alignment with your ministry. If they don’t buy in, they are multiplying someone else’s leadership, not yours.

2. Multiply through people whose talents and decision-making you can trust. It’s not enough to know that their heart is in the right place. You also have to trust that they have the ability to actually do the job.

3. Multiply through people who are self-motivated, yet humble. If they are self-motivated, you can trust them to do their best work without checking up on them. But if they are humble, they will come to you when they are stuck and need help, rather than trying to pull something off on their own when they can’t. You want someone who can get far along on a project on their own, but who will also come to you the moment they need support.

Anyone who doesn’t fit these three qualifications is someone who you should manage and direct, not release. But the best leaders surround themselves with people who fit these three categories.

Turning from the idol of control

What some leaders call delegating is actually micromanaging. They want total control over the end product, but realize they don’t have the time to do everything, and can’t do two things at once. Leaders like this will have a hard time making the switch toward “multiplying themselves” unless they repent of their idol of control.

Think about our Savior. Jesus could have accomplished the mission of building God’s kingdom without the inefficiencies of our mistakes and sins. Yet, in his grace he invites us to be a part of it.

Only leaders who recognize that they make mistakes every day – while also realizing that somehow God still uses them – will be able to release others to get after the work of the ministry. They will make mistakes, yes. Just like you and I. But despite those mistakes more will be accomplished for the sake of God’s kingdom.

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