Delegation vs Empowerment

baton-empowerment-delegationTo delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another. To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else. Do you hear the difference? To delegate something to someone is to only give them enough leash to act on your behalf-as you would for yourself. To empower another means you give them enough power and authority to act on their own behalf.

This is not good versus bad. There is a proper time for delegation. I can think of two: when someone is truly new to the ways of leadership and in times of crisis. When someone is cutting their teeth on leadership then you want to teach them how to handle responsibility. It is the principle of seeing if they will be faithful in little so that they might grow in to being faithful with much. In times of crisis there needs to be an authoritative decision maker and those who are willing to simply carry out those decisions to meet the critical need of the moment. But these two scenarios leave a whole lot of opportunity for empowerment.

In my mind there are three critical aspects to empowerment. To truly empower someone you must grant them authority, you must give them proper resources, and you must hold them accountable to organizational values and principles. They have to have enough authority to make some significant and important decisions-you have to give power away. They have to have resources that are truly theirs to steward-people, money and tools. Yet it is not a free for all-there should be an accountable aspect that helps them stay within the playing field of organizational boundaries. You tell them the “what” but the “how” is left up to them. They have to have enough of all three things to truly have the freedom to fail on their own efforts-and learn.

While there is a proper time for both things I am pushing the action point towards empowerment. Here are some reasons why:

Delegation largely raises up followers-empowerment raises up leaders.

Delegation is less work for you in the short run-empowerment is more work for you in the short run.

Delegation is more work for you in the long run-empowerment is less work for you in the long run.

Delegation keeps you in the center of leadership activity-empowerment places someone else at the center of leadership activity.

Delegation ensures that you are your own leadership legacy-for good or for bad. Empowerment ensures that more leaders are your leadership legacy-which is almost always good.

Consider today some people around you that you can truly empower-not for your kingdom-but for His.

(photo credit)

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  1. Gary,
    Great post. I’ve been thinking about this today as I make plans for the year for my team. I WANT to empower, but find myself delegating when its not appropriate for the situation. Keep it coming….

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  4. Thanks for this post Gary, I am a university student from Australia studying my Masters of Education majoring in Educational Leadership and this really helped me to identify the main difference between empowering and delegation.

    • James, Thanks for you comments and encouragement. I am glad that it was a helpful post. Hang in there with your Masters. Grad degrees are a lot of work, but trusting it will be fruitful work.

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