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Being An Effective Leader

Using delegation as a leadership tool

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Lillas Hatala, executive director of Integrative Leadership International (LTD), and Mount Royal University instructor.

Perhaps the most important aspect of being a good leader is getting along with people. Effective leadership is based on creating honest professional relationships so individuals and businesses can achieve success. But – being a leader is hard work.

The building blocks to lead effectively are based on a few key skills like collaboration, motivation and delegation. Many times, leaders who micromanage are focused solely on technical and operational efforts that create burnout, stress and negativity in a workplace environment.

So, how can such pitfalls be avoided? First, leaders must pool resources and delegate responsibilities to others. Distributing job duties helps organizations become more efficient at all levels. Research shows that delegation – as a tool in leadership – is valuable.

“There are a lot of pros with delegating when it’s done properly (because) delegation starts with creating trusting relationships and dialogue reflecting your understanding of your employees, and clarity of the tasks that need to be accomplished,” explains Lillas Hatala, executive director of Integrative Leadership International (LTD), and Mount Royal University instructor of leadership effectiveness and emotional intelligence at work.

Hatala says, “Research from the Centre for Creative Leadership shows that the benefits of effective delegation include freeing a leader of time for more strategic activities, creating a culture of trust and providing employees with the freedom on how to accomplish tasks and roles (hence) increasing engagement and empowerment.”

Delegating not only helps a leader become well organized but gives employees a feeling of belonging in an organization. For this reason, “when things get difficult and challenging, creating more inclusive workplaces and not doing it alone but developing partners and allies will give greater success,” adds Hatala.

Not communicating clearly and trying to control everything are common mistakes done within leadership roles. Instead, allocating power to the right individuals helps heighten work productivity and staff proficiency.

“Sometimes leaders have blind spots in delegation in the sense that sometimes they can delegate too soon, or to the wrong people. They are delegating to the people who really don’t have the skills or resources to take on the delegation or responsibility,” explains Gene Vollendorf, whose consulting practice – Melrose Inc. – has provided strategic financial planning to entrepreneurs since 2009.

“A lot of times I have gone into companies where there are good people organizations with good culture, but these people have been promoted beyond their capabilities; they are just not there yet. I will go and candidly say, ‘Look, I know you need to delegate it, but you’re going to have to get people from outside (because) you need this business acumen now,’” adds Vollendorf.

Leaders are faced with many challenges that sometime hamper the ability to allocate responsibilities and tasks to appropriate people. Vollendorf mentions leaders often delegate to the wrong individuals which “does not set them up to be successful, but overwhelms people in the process.”

Effective leadership is hiring a staff of qualified individuals who can successfully implement a leader’s vision and goal. A leader’s role is to delegate specific jobs to suitable employees who will get the work done.

According to Kim Moody, director and Canadian tax adviser at Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP, leaders must have confidence in a business team to succeed.

“What I value the most is having a group of peers that I can trust and share challenges and successes along with feedback. So for me, I realized early on that I couldn’t be a successful leader and businessperson without a peer group that resonates and can empathize with the challenges,” describes Moody.

Moody credits respect in leadership as something that has to be gained through team collaboration and trust. For delegation to work, individuals must feel valued to resolve issues and accomplish business objectives.

“I have seen great women who are leaders – and I have seen great men who are leaders – and the common denominator between all of them is that they are consensus builders and people want to follow them. Leadership is earned; it’s not commanded,” states Moody.

The process of delegation can be confusing and frustrating. To delegate effectively, a leader must have clear vision, communication, understanding and confidence in team members to foster success. These basic leadership qualities are also beneficial to promote business growth and development in an organization.

“Instead of speaking in terms of tasks when delegating, speak in terms of desired outcomes. People will own the work more if they feel invested,” says Garth Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Meticulon – a non-profit IT consulting firm providing jobs for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Canada.

Johnson proposes, “Not to use delegation to address the tyranny of the urgent work that always arises, (but) if you don’t feel anyone on your team currently has the capability or capacity to do what needs to be delegated – and you have to do it yourself – (then) take the time to bring in someone who could eventually do it.”

More importantly, Johnson suggests employee morale and the quality of the workplace environment are key factors to retain good staff and to keep people motivated especially in non-profit organizations.

“Most staff in non-profit organizations are not motivated by money alone. The pro to this is that people will often contribute more to the organization than a typical employee might (because) of commitment to the cause,” adds Johnson.

No matter the type of organization, leaders should be aware delegating can be both effective and ineffective depending on who takes on the responsibility of completing a required task. Yet, delegation becomes a delicate matter when a specific assignment is inadequately or poorly completed.

Johnson’s advice: “Don’t punish failure, (but) talk about what could have been done better or differently and let people try again to encourage and foster a coaching team environment.”

After delegating, a leader should review the outcomes to ensure specific objectives have been achieved. Employees need to be supported and rewarded for a job well done, but also held accountable for poor work.

“Delegation is not really a formula, but there should be clarity on expectations and tasks (because) leadership affects the cultural environment and influences organizational results,” says Hatala.

Sometimes leaders do not have adequate training or skills needed to delegate which can cause problems in a workplace. Depending on the business, some should seek leadership development with coaching programs, educational courses and consultation services as provided at Integrative Leadership International (LTD), Melrose Inc. and Meticulon.

Hatala emphasizes the importance to “grow emotional intelligence and enhance emotional well-being” in a workplace environment to promote business success. For instance, a key component in leading effectively is learning to identify people’s strengths when delegating tasks.

“Being self-aware is key in leadership. Also, someone who is willing to take calculated risks and someone who is humble is important too,” explains Moody.

Whether one is a corporate executive or an entrepreneur managing a startup, these key leadership traits are crucial for delegation and management in an organization. Delegating not only fosters collaboration, productivity and teamwork – but it also helps to enhance employee performance and appreciation.

Despite the fact delegation is sometimes difficult, leaders should consider entrusting employees with particular jobs to foster business growth. Good management skills are based on the understanding that there are different ways of taking care of the needs of an organization along with its employees and customers.

Simply put: “Leadership isn’t about working your way up the corporate ladder so you can be above the rest – it is about being the first one up the ladder so you can help those behind you follow safely,” adds Johnson.

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