There once was a leader named Moses.
God chose him to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. You remember the story – “Hey Pharaoh, let my people go!” Before long, Moses and the Israelites (an estimated 1-2 million) ended up wandering around the desert, trying to survive and find the Promised Land.
In one of my favorite leadership passages in the Bible, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro (of all people) comes to him and observes his leadership. “What you are doing is not good,” he says (Exodus 18:17). Essentially, too many people were bringing trivial problems to Moses, depending on him for solutions. Pops-in-law offered thoughtful advice:
“But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men . . . and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens . . . have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.” (Exodus 18:21-22)
(I would guess in a different time and cultural context, he would have recommended women too).
We call this principle delegation.
Too often, leaders feel the need to involve themselves in as many decisions as possible. Perhaps if we loosen the reigns too much, we’ll lose control, influence, or popularity. Yet, if Jethro was right, seeking involvement in every organizational decision lacks sustainability. “You AND the people who come to you will wear yourselves out!” he suggested (Exodus 18:18).
In his book Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Peter Drucker (2006) devotes a whole chapter to this principle.
“The least effective decision makers are the ones who constantly make decisions. The effective ones make very few. They concentrate on the important decisions.” (p. 121)
Initially, delegation (done properly) requires more time than simply making decisions yourself. Yet, as your leadership and organizations grow, a lack of empowerment will eventually backfire.
Are you feeling the weight of leadership in your organization? Ask yourself today – Who am I raising up to lead? What decisions are most important? Which can be delegated to other capable men and women?
Daniel Gluck serves as Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Jessup, and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program.