Situational Leadership - Delegating

The fourth phase of Situational Leadership is Delegating. This is when the follower is fully confident and competent. The leader, at this phase, should entrust the task or job to the follower.

Being able to delegate is the nirvana of managers, however, to delegate successfully, all four phases should be completed thoroughly. Skipping a phase can lead to frustration on the part of both leader and follower.

Let say our Subject Expert volunteers to become a trainer. Her manager says "Great. We have some good books on training in the library. Why don't you start there." As you can probably guess, sending the Subject Expert from the library (directing) to the classroom (delegating) won't work well--unless the Subject Expert has a LOT of talent.

The manager recognizes that and says, "Why don't you sign up for a train-the-trainer course (coaching)." Going from Coaching to Delegating might work a bit better, but there is still some risk. The Subject Expert may go into the classroom and be thrown off stride by unexpected group dynamics or questions she hadn't anticipated. She becomes disillusioned by the experience and decides to quit training. The manager's investment is lost.

Having a senior trainer present to support and give feedback would help the Subject Expert through the unexpected and help her gain confidence for next time.

Now she's ready to take the class herself and the company's investment of time and money will have a return.

The key to effective Situational Leadership is to use all four phases, to go to a prior phase when necessary, and to adjust the time in each phase to the aptitude of the follower.

Return to Home Page

Leadership Tips

  • Use all four phases of Situational Leadership. This will avoid several common problems with delegation, such as "I delegated once and the person failed" and "I don't have time to delegate."
  • Many delegation "fails" come from going directly from "Directing" to "Delegating." This is the equivalent of throwing a child in a swimming pool. Some will swim. Some will not.
  • In a crisis, delegate only to people who are fully prepared to receive delegation.
  • Use less stressful times to begin the delegation process with additional staff member to bring them up to speed so that can be prepared for times of heightened expectations.
  • Be a self-aware leader. How comfortable are you with training others to be fully competent? Are you holding people back? Do you do tasks yourself just because you like them even if they would be done more effectively by others?