Delegate outcomes; not actions

The difference between leadership and management

There’s a particular form of leadership that has difficulty in delegating. I’m not talking about micro-managers (although they would fall into this category as well), but those who delegate actions. The “I need you to put a presentation together by Friday” type of manager.

This management model shows an implicit lack of trust. And while it may not be verbalised (or even thought of in this way), trust between managers and their staff is demonstrated in how we interact with each other.

Rather, leaders should be delegating outcomes - and leave the choice and implementation of the relevant actions to their staff.

For every “I need a presentation on X” there is a “We need to make our clients aware of the new products.”

For every “I need you to sell this car” there is a “We need to increase sales by 10% this quarter.”

For every “I need you to upgrade Microsoft Office to 2013” there is a “I need you to maintain all systems and ensure they are up to date.”

If you do not trust your staff, either because they have proven themselves incompetent (as in the literal definition of not-competent) or they are new, then certainly be specific. But if, as an agile leader, you’re hiring people smarter than you, let them do their job. And if, as should happen, they find a better way to do the job, your act of delegating should not limit them.

Do you delegate actions or outcomes? Why? Let me know below.