Delegation of Authority– Power to Manage, Power to Change: Core Principle in Management Practice…

Congratulations; you are delegated to lead an organizational initiative! But there is a catch– its success hinges on the cooperation of several people across the organization over whom you have no formal authority…

According to Lauren Keller Johnson; many managers are facing this challenge more often these days because of flatter organization structures, outsourcing, virtual teams… New kinds of partnerships and alliances have emerged, which require managers to exercise influence over peers without formal authority… Delegation of authority is a transferring of responsibility to accomplish a certain task; and as it’s given, it can also be withdrawn at any time…

Delegation is the process of sharing power and work, it’s technique of management used to get the things done through others, presumably much more effectively… In a delegation process only authority is delegated, not responsibilities– control remains with the delegator… it’s an important process in the art of management…

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The delegation of authority is one of the key and essential tools in the development of any organization– it strengthen the internal control system, clarifies who is responsible for decision-making for each task, and is a critical process of an organization… According to Mooney and Reily; authority is the principle at the root of any organization, and so important that it’s impossible to conceive of any organization without some person(s)requiring a delegated action from other people… However, authority is not just a matter of telling other people what to do… Delegation of authority is all about empowerment… There is a wide range of authority that can be conferred on people and the rate and extent of authority delegated is a fundamental driver for getting things done…

According to Dougcas C. Basil; delegation is granting authority or the right to decision-making in certain identified areas and charging other people with responsibility for carrying through an assigned task… Typically, authority flows from top to bottom across the organizational structure, however, in many modern organization the command-and-control leadership, i.e.; ‘I Leader-You Follower’ approach, does not get a manager very far.

According to Jay A. Conger; managers and executives at all levels must use a more lateral style of leadership… Lateral leadership (informal authority) is an essential skill and comprises a variety of capabilities– from networking and coalition building to persuading and negotiating… As the business landscape continues to shift, organizations need people who can exercise lateral leadership with increasing skill, confidence…

In the article Difference Between Power, Authority, Leadership by Koen Marichal writes: There is a difference between– authority, leadership, power. According to Ronald Heifetz; authority is the conferred power to perform a service; it can be given and it can be taken away, it’s part of an exchange… Authority provides direction, protection and order, it’s an imperative in any organization, and it can be both formal and informal…

The power to influence is the resource of authority and leadership. Power can be both informal and formal; where formal power comes with a ‘position’ (or ‘rank’) within an organization. Whereas, informal power comes from ‘personal attributes’ as does informal authority… informal authority and power are necessary conditions to gain formal power and authority…

Hence, authority and leadership do not necessarily go hand-in-hand… In order words, authority is given to provide– order, direction, protection… whereas, leadership– creates visions, challenges status quo, changes value systems… leadership is not merely the informal side of authority or power, leadership is closely linked to purpose, it’s the  ‘why’. Hence, the critical differentiator between authority and leadership is the question: Does making progress on an issue require changes in people’s values, attitudes, habits of behavior? If yes, leadership is needed. If no, authority can do just fine. However, both authority and leadership need ‘power’; formal or informal…

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In the article Power vs. Authority by Jim Bouchard writes: Power is the ability to act or perform effectively, which is essential ingredient in effective leadership… In conventional thinking there is little or no power without authority. However, some people see exactly the opposite; there is no authority without power; not for long anyway! Authority comes from; titles, degrees, positions… which is usually be given by another person(s). Whereas, power comes from within a person; power is the capacity to have influence, to act and get things done, and power grows directly from a person’s willingness to learn, change, develop…

Some people try to expand personal ambitions by directly expand their authority; that can work for a time, but authority without power is always open to attack– vulnerable to the next coup… Both power and authority are important; a person cannot lead effectively without authority… hence, it’s a matter of means: A person can gain a tremendous degree of authority by being a jerk, or through political maneuvering, lying, cheating… Or they can cultivate authentic power through meaningful achievements…

In the article When and How to Delegate by Stephanie Reyes writes: A basic question leaders often asked is: When to Delegate? The classic answer is– delegate whenever possible without compromising the objectives of the task, or overburdening the team… Giving people challenging and meaningful work, along with the authority and resources needed to accomplish the work, make a team stronger and more motivated. It also frees up management to focus on planning and other strategic issues… Rather than trying to determine when it makes sense to delegate, Peter F. Drucker suggests; leaders must be aware of what they should not delegate, and then assume everything else is fair game for delegation…

It’s also important to remember that the leader remains ultimately responsible for the successful completion of delegated tasks, even when team members are given the necessary authority and resources to accomplish them. In other words; true delegating means giving up what you would like to hold onto, i.e., the authority… and holding onto what you would like to give up, i.e., the responsibility…

Delegation of authority means empowerment, which is often incorrectly perceived as a binary choice: Either you empower someone, or you don’t… However, in reality, there are different levels of empowerment… According to G.M. Spreitzer; empowerment is a variable; people can be viewed as more or less empowered, rather than empowered or not empowered… 

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In the article Principles of Effective Delegation by kevinb writes: Delegation is an important tool that many leaders hesitate to use, and it has been the downfall of many organizations. The biggest barrier to delegation is overcoming the attitude that ‘you’ must do it all! It becomes a leader’s curse when you adhere to adage; If you want something done right, do it yourself… Delegation is very different from simply assigning someone a task or project that falls within their established job description or requirements…

When you delegate, you give someone else tasks to complete with the authority and control to complete it properly: Delegation is not abdication. You share accountability for the assignment, which is why checkpoints are established to monitor overall progress. Just as the outcomes of the entire team is your responsibility, you are also responsible for the ultimate success of the delegation process…

When delegation is done properly and for the right reasons, it helps foster a climate of trust and creates growth opportunities for the entire team. Once you have created a solid process for delegation, stick to it, void reverse delegation… At times, a team member may try to dump the delegated task back to you, and you may feel tempted to take it back especially if he or she seems to be struggling. Helping him/her stretch outside their comfort zone is all part of a positive growth, development… Here are five principles that can help create an effective delegation process:

  • Determine what to delegate: Effective delegation of authority begins with defining the responsibilities. Write down all of the activities and responsibilities. Review the master list and categorize all of the items into two secondary lists: Things you alone must do and things that others could do or help complete. Anything that falls into the second list presents an opportunity for delegation…
  • Choose right person to delegate the task to: Andrew Carnegie said; The secret to success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right person to do it… The key to finding the right person to delegate an assignment to is matching skills and attitude to the task at hand…
  • Clarify desired results: When the results are clear, it allows the person(s) delegated to use their own creativity and resources to accomplish the task. An added benefit of effective delegation is the person(s) may find a better and more effective way to accomplish the task or achieve the desired results…
  • Clearly define responsibility and authority as it relates to the delegated task: Clearly communicate the expectation, responsibilities, and timeline. Be sure to ask the delegated person(s) about their understanding of the task…
  • Establish follow-up or touch-points: The follow-up should be focused on two things; monitoring progress and determining the need for assistance. The number of follow-up will vary based on the scope of the task…

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Delegation involves three important aspects, such as; assigning duties, granting of authority, creating obligation or accountability… The followings are some of the important principles of delegation of authority:

(a) Authority should commensurate with responsibility: It’s not correct to say that authority should be equal to responsibility. Authority is the power to carry out an assignment and responsibility is the obligation to accomplish it…

(b) Responsibility cannot be delegated: When authority is delegated to another person(s), the delegator does not pass on the responsibility for it. The delegator is still accountable for it as their responsibility is absolute, it’s also termed as the principles of absolute responsibility.

(c) Dual delegation should be avoided: There is a saying that a person cannot serve two masters in the same way. Every person(s) in the organization must know who delegates authority to them, and to whom the matters beyond their authority will be referred…

Authority flows downward, as it implies the right to acquire action of others… Responsibility flows upward, as a person(s) is accountable to another in a higher rank…