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Delegation: The Most Powerful High-Leverage Activity

One of the most important skills for any school leader is learning how to delegate. According to Stephen Covey, "Effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high-leverage activity there is."

Effective leaders look at every situation through a delegation lens. When they encounter a decision, they focus on mobilizing people and leveraging resources to achieve their goals rather than on using their own individual efforts. Successful leaders know how to maximize every asset and are continually aware of the resources they have at their disposal.

So why aren't all school leaders effective delegators? Here are three reasons:

  1. They don't know how: Some leaders simply have not had experience delegating or have not been mentored how to effectively delegate. I experienced this feeling during the first several years of my administrative career. I simply didn't know what needed to be delegated, and I didn't know how to go about delegating.

  2. They don't want to give up power: Let's be honest, a lot of people like power and don't like to give it up! Delegating tasks often feels like giving up control. For example, for several years I enjoyed creating our building master schedule. I loved feeling the power of everyone coming to me for an answer. Not only do I realize I could have been more efficient with my time if I had delegated this task, I also realize I created an unnecessary bottleneck of information in our building.

  3. They are too nice: There are times when leaders want to delegate tasks to others, but the thought of telling someone to do work (or train someone to to their work) is not pleasurable. I admit - I still struggle with this! Sometimes when I realize there are tasks that should be delegated to others, I avoid those conversations in fear of the reaction I will get when I add work to others' plates.

I picked up a rule of thumb for delegating from the The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership years ago. It reads as follows: If something I'm doing can be done 80 percent as well by someone else, I delegate it. When I encounter actions that need to be taken, I immediately use 80% as a barometer. While there are some tasks that only an administrator can do (employee evaluations, severe student discipline, etc.), truth is most work within a school setting can be done at high levels by other staff members.

One last thing to remember about delegation. You can never completely wash your hands of a task. Even after you delegate it, you are still responsible for its accomplishment. Monitoring a task you have delegated is an important step for ensuring an activity is proceeding in line with your expectations.



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