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Leadership, Productivity

What Is Delegation And Why It Is Important

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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Delegation of tasks may make people feel uncomfortable, anxious, or stressed because they fear losing control or that the quality of their work will suffer if it is done by someone else. Delegating tasks to others may also be perceived as an admission of weakness or incompetence as some may be concerned that others will judge them for not being able to handle everything themselves.

However, being able to delegate can significantly increase your productivity by leveraging your time and knowledge. To overcome all of the negative feelings and barriers, all you need to do is work on developing delegation skills.

What is Delegation?

Delegation is defined as “the act of empowering another to act for oneself.”[1] It is the process of delegating tasks, responsibilities, and authority to another individual or group of individuals.

“Delegation is the art of extracting work from others and getting it done by them as if you were doing it yourself.” – Andrew Carnegie

When delegating, a person in a leadership or managerial position often transfers some of their workload or decision-making power to others in the organization while remaining accountable for the task’s outcome.

Delegation also refers to leveraging other people’s time to increase your quality time. By delegating tasks, you can focus on higher-level responsibilities, such as strategic planning, while team members work on tasks that require additional expertise and experience. This allows you to focus your time and energy on tasks that are more important and have a greater impact on the organization.

I go into greater detail about how delegating major tasks to others allows you to complete tasks more quickly and free up your time in my article The Power of Leverage in Leading the Life You Want.

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4 Types of Delegation

Although most delegation involves a person in a position of leadership or management assigning tasks to their subordinates, there are other types of delegation that do not always involve leaders or managers. Here are 4 different types of delegation:

General or Specific Delegation

This type of delegation is determined by the task at hand.

Giving a broad set of responsibilities to a person or team without specific instructions on how to complete the task is referred to as general delegation.

In contrast, specific delegation entails assigning a specific task with specific requirements and expectations.

When a person or team has a high degree of autonomy or when the task requires creative problem-solving, general delegation is used. When a task is highly structured or requires a specific skill set, specific delegation is used.

Formal or Informal Delegation

The process of giving authority is at the heart of this type of delegation.

Formal delegation is a structured process of assigning tasks and responsibilities, with well-defined roles and expectations. Typically, this type of delegation is used in large organizations or government agencies.

Informal delegation, on the other hand, entails delegating tasks or responsibilities to others in an unstructured manner, usually without a clear process or formal agreement. This type of delegation is often used in smaller organizations or teams where trust and collaboration are high.

Top to Bottom or Bottom to Top Delegation

This type of delegation is based on an organization’s hierarchy.

Delegation from top to bottom occurs when a person in a higher position assigns tasks or responsibilities to someone in a lower position. This type of delegation is commonly used in hierarchical organizations, such as corporations or government agencies.

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Bottom-to-top delegation involves assigning tasks or responsibilities to someone in a higher position, often in order for a lower-level employee to provide feedback or ideas. Delegation of this type is commonly used in organizations with a more collaborative or flat structure, such as startups or small businesses.

Lateral Delegation

This type of delegation requires the collaboration of a group or team. It involves delegating tasks or responsibilities to people on the same organizational level, often with a common goal or objective.

This type of delegation is often used in cross-functional teams, which bring together people from various departments or areas of expertise to complete a project or task.

Lateral delegation can help to foster collaboration, creativity, and innovation. It can, however, be difficult to manage because it requires a high level of communication and coordination among team members.

When deciding which of the four types of delegation to use, consider your goals, the complexity of a task, the level of formality in the organization structure, and team members’ skills and expertise. You can read my article for more information on how to delegate effectively: How to Start Delegating Tasks Effectively (Step-by-Step Guide).

Benefits of Delegation

Delegation can provide numerous benefits, including reduced workload and stress for the leader or manager, improved team morale and engagement, and increased productivity and efficiency. Let’s go over each benefit of delegation one by one.

1. Leverage of Time

One of the most important advantages of delegation is leverage. As Simon Sinek famously said:

“Delegation is not about getting someone else to do what you do. It is about getting people who are better than you to do what you can’t.” – Simon Sinek

When a leader delegates tasks and responsibilities to others on their team, they can leverage those team members’ skills, strengths and time to achieve better results. Here are some examples:

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  • Improved efficiency: Delegating tasks to team members who are skilled in those areas can increase efficiency and productivity. When the right person is assigned to a task, it is more likely that it will be completed quickly and accurately, with fewer errors and less wasted time.
  • Greater expertise: Delegating tasks to team members who have expertise in specific areas can help the organization leverage that expertise. A marketing manager, for example, may delegate a social media campaign to a team member with experience in social media marketing, which can help to ensure that the campaign is more effective and engaging.

2. Allowing You to Focus on More Important Tasks

Delegating tasks and responsibilities to others on your team allows you to devote more time to tasks that require your expertise.

Delegating routine or lower-level tasks to others can free up your time for strategic planning and decision-making. You can spend more time on tasks that require your expertise and experience if you delegate tasks that can be done by others.

You can also step back from the organization’s day-to-day operations and concentrate on long-term issues and strategic initiatives.

3. Allowing Others to Learn and Develop New Skills

Delegating tasks to others can provide them with new challenges they may not have had previously. This can help them learn new skills and broaden their experience, both of which will be useful in their future careers. You can help them learn from their mistakes and improve their skills by providing feedback on their work.

Delegating tasks to others can also provide them with a sense of ownership over their work. This can make them feel more invested in the organization’s success and more committed to doing their best work.

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4. Enhancing Team Trust and Communication

Delegation can encourage team members to collaborate and work together on tasks. This can help to break down organizational silos and foster a culture of collaboration.

When team members collaborate on a task, they may need to communicate with one another to share information, provide feedback, and coordinate their efforts. This can help to build trust and improve communication within the team.

Besides, delegating tasks can improve team transparency. There is less room for confusion or misunderstandings when team members are clear about the tasks they are responsible for and the results they are expected to deliver.

5. Increasing Team Flexibility and Productivity

When team members are given the opportunity to take on new tasks and responsibilities, they may need to learn new skills or expand their knowledge in different areas. This can encourage cross-training and skill sharing, and make them more flexible and adaptable.

Moreover, because delegating tasks to other team members helps to distribute workload more evenly, it reduces bottlenecks within the team where one person is responsible for all tasks in a specific area.

Overall, delegation can help to make the best use of everyone’s time and resources by freeing up time, increasing productivity, and encouraging accountability and ownership. This can lead to increased performance, better results, and overall success for the organization.

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Why Do People Hesitate to Delegate?

Why, with so many benefits of delegation, are some people still hesitant to delegate? These could explain why:

Lack of Time

When people are busy and have a lot on their plates, it can be tempting to assume all of the responsibilities on their own.

Delegating a task may require time and effort, which may be perceived as a burden. They may also believe that explaining the task to someone else is time-consuming and may not yield the desired results. As a result, they decide to do the task on their own because they believe it is the most efficient way to complete the task.

In reality, while delegation may appear to take more time at first, it can ultimately save time in the long run.


Perfectionists may believe it is their responsibility to ensure that all aspects of the work are completed to their exacting standards. They may also believe that they are the only ones capable of completing a task to the required level of perfection. This can lead to a reluctance to delegate tasks to others because they believe others will not be able to meet the same standards as they do.

Perfectionists may worry that if a task is not completed to their exacting standards, it will reflect negatively on them and their reputation. This fear of failure can lead to a reluctance to delegate tasks because they may believe it is safer to complete tasks themselves rather than risk failure or poor results.

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However, failing to delegate tasks can lead to burnout and stress because of taking on too many responsibilities and struggling to complete all of them within the timeframe specified.

Trust Issues

People who are accustomed to working alone or who have had negative experiences delegating tasks to others may find it difficult to let go of control and trust others to complete tasks.

They may not believe that their team members have the necessary skills or knowledge to complete the task at hand. This lack of trust may lead to a reluctance to delegate tasks and an overburdening of oneself.

Even when they do delegate, they may micromanage those to whom they have delegated tasks, which can be time-consuming and inefficient. This can lead to frustration and resentment among those to whom the task has been delegated, lowering team morale and negatively impacting the outcome.

Desire to Maintain Expertise

Leaders who have developed a high level of expertise in a specific area may believe they are the best person for certain tasks. They may be concerned that delegating these tasks to others will result in mistakes or subpar results.

This concern is heightened by the fact that team members may have different ways of doing things, which may differ from how the leader has done things in the past. These leaders may believe that they are the only ones who can complete the task in the “correct” manner.

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However, it is critical to recognize that by delegating tasks to others, you can actually free up time to focus on further developing their expertise or exploring new areas where they can excel.

Unclear Objectives

It can be difficult to delegate effectively without a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished. If the task’s goals are unclear to the leader, it can be challenging to communicate these goals to team members, resulting in miscommunication, errors, and suboptimal outcomes.

To overcome the barrier of unclear objectives, take the time before delegating to clarify the task or project’s objectives. Outlining the desired outcomes, developing a detailed plan, and establishing clear expectations for the team can all be part of this.

Lack of Delegation Skills

Delegation requires a specific set of skills, such as the ability to identify the appropriate tasks to delegate, communicate expectations clearly, provide support and feedback to subordinates, and effectively manage the delegation process. If a leader lacks these abilities, they may be hesitant to delegate tasks to others because they are unsure how to do so effectively.

Leaders can invest in training and development to increase their skills in order to get past the obstacle of lacking delegation skills. Training programs, working with a mentor or coach, and seeking feedback and advice from more experienced colleagues can all be beneficial.

How to Delegate Effectively

There appear to be numerous barriers to delegating, but the good news is that by arming yourself with delegation skills, you can overcome all of these challenges and delegate effectively.

To delegate effectively, you must select the right task to delegate to the appropriate person, establish clear expectations, provide resources, support, and feedback, and track progress throughout.

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LifeHack is a fully distributed team, with members working remotely from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and various European countries. It can be challenging to coordinate and manage tasks in a remote team, especially if team members are spread across different time zones or have varying work schedules. However, by delegating tasks effectively, I can ensure that everyone is on track with their tasks and projects.

Read my article to find out how I delegate tasks to ensure personal and team productivity: How to Start Delegating Tasks Effectively (Step-by-Step Guide)


Delegation is essential for boosting an organization’s efficiency and productivity. It allows leaders to focus on higher-level tasks, improve the skills of their team members, foster trust and communication, increase flexibility, and promote a more collaborative work environment.

While there may be several barriers to delegation, it’s important to remember that effective delegation requires clear objectives, communication, trust, and support.

Delegation is becoming increasingly important in ensuring the smooth operation of teams as workplaces become more diverse and distributed. As a result, if you’re a leader who wants to unleash the full potential of your teams and achieve greater success in your organization, you must begin delegating and develop the necessary skills.

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Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

What Is Delegation And Why It Is Important

Delegation is is the process of delegating tasks, responsibilities, and authority to another individual or group of individuals.

Delegation also refers to leveraging other people’s time to increase your quality time.

There are 4 types of delegation: General or Specific Delegation, Formal or Informal Delegation, Top to Bottom or Bottom to Top Delegation, Lateral Delegation

Benefits of delegation include an leverage of time, allowing you to focus on more important tasks, allowing others to learn and develop new skills, enhancing team trust and communication, and increasing team flexibility and productivity.

Lacking of time, perfectionism, having trust issues, desiring to maintain expertise, not having a clear objective, and lacking of delegation skills can all be the reasons why people refuse to delegate tasks.

To learn how to delegate effectively, read How to Start Delegating Tasks Effectively (Step-by-Step Guide)

Featured photo credit: CoWomen via unsplash.com


[1]Merriam Webster: Delegation
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