Delegation: how can leaders let go?

2019 (3)

Good leaders recognise that they don’t have to be the best at everything. Instead they know their role is to get the best out of others. And achieving that requires both trust and the ability to let go.  

Where many managers go wrong is believing they constantly have to demonstrate their technical superiority. Be that in sales, finance, marketing or any other discipline. In doing so they immediately send the message, intended or not, ‘I don’t trust you’. 

Yes, leaders have a vital role in coaching and mentoring. However, that needs to be a developmental process not a “look how good I am” one.  

So why do leaders struggle to let go? I agree with Mark Fritz that one of the biggest reasons is business judgement. Or rather the lack of it. If you don’t trust people to make the right decisions, then you can’t let go of power. And if you can’t let go of power you will never delegate successfully. All the decisions end up reverting to you. As a result, you’ll become bogged down in operational detail and never find the time and space for strategy, innovation or improvement. Let alone your people. 

One of the great things about my job is I still have the chance to do what I love most – design and deliver highly impactful short (usually half or full day) executive development programmes. Be that to high potential graduates or Chief Executives/MDs. 

This week I had a brilliant opportunity to work with a group of high potential individuals to explore what stops their people – and them – from exercising great business judgement. They are members of Aspire, a continuous leadership development programme run by Leadership Gateway for members of SME top teams.  

What we explored was the complex nature of business judgement – and how there is no one silver bullet solution. Not least as one of the big factors shaping our decisions and choices is personality. We all see the world differently, have different motivators and can have different threat/reward responses to the same situations. For example, some will see the chance to lead a mission critical project as a defining career opportunity. Another will see it as potentially being set up to fail. 

In total we explored seven “forces” impacting on business judgement and how they impact on the decision process we have developed in partnership with Leadership Gateway. The challenge to the delegates being how do they take that learning back to their businesses and use it to develop their own people to make better choices? 

For anyone running a SME business, people development will be a key factor in long-term success. Often though they feel they can’t afford the kind of leadership and management development opportunities offered by larger corporates. Through their Nexus, Aspire and Gateway programmes this inspiring group of companies has proved size is no barrier to offering world class learning. I am really looking forward to working with them again. 

If your company is interested in finding out more, Nexus Leadership Gateway is hosting an East Midlands open day on 21 March – with Mark Fritz as guest speaker. Please contact Jo Crutchley – – for more details.


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