The Difference Between Delegating and Empowering

A series to help you focus on building a reflective leadership mindset
By Gary Walljasper

Just because you’ve delegated, doesn’t mean you’ve empowered.

Of all the leadership classes I teach, ‘delegating effectively’ is one of my favorite modules.  It’s a favorite because participants often have an “ah-ha” moment when they realize the act of delegating isn’t that difficult.  What is difficult, is delegating in a way that creates a sense of empowerment.

If you struggle in this area, you’re not alone. Most leaders talk about the concept of empowering their team, yet many fall short for any number of reasons.  While coaching leaders across industries on this topic, we first spend time talking about having a mindset of reflective leadership, which can be established by asking two important questions:

  1. What’s important for me to know? Know the difference between delegating and empowering. Why?  There is a purpose for both – knowing the difference allows you to prepare and take action.
  2. What’s important for me to ask? Have discussions with your team to understand what helps them feel empowered. The reality is that one size does not fit all. Use this ‘Empowerment Conversation Tool’ to get started.
5 Key Differences Between Delegating and Empowering

Empowerment allows employees to act on their own behalf so that they can take initiative and make decisions. Delegation, on the other hand, is often task-based, giving employees the opportunity to act on your behalf as their manager. Navigating between delegation and empowerment can be tricky. Use these signals to guide your delivery to create an environment where your team feels empowered.

When Delegating to Others(In Other Words…)
You are giving someone enough “leash” (boundary/space) to represent you, not themNo authority truly granted
You are “giving an assignment”Little opportunity to grow
You are likely wearing your management hatTask-related focus
You are likely distributing work that needs to get doneDevelopment is secondary
You are likely still focused, at some level, on control“Telling leader”

When Empowering Others(In Other Words…)
You are giving someone enough “leash” to represent themselvesGive responsibility
Your purpose is generally focused on building skills, confidence, and capabilityEmployee growth exists
You are likely wearing your leadership hatDevelopment is primary
You have a “learn and apply” mindset in place to ensure the employee’s successSupports learning
Your focus on guidance takes the place of the need for control“Coaching leader”

Practice it

Reflect on your leadership when delegating to others.  How well do you know and practice the difference between delegating and empowering?  How well do you know what your employees want in order to feel a greater sense of empowerment? Addressing these questions will help build your leadership effectiveness.

The difference between good leaders and influential leaders lies in their ability to build a mindset of reflective leadership.
Learn more about reflective leadership and some simple ideas to work into your day-to-day
Want to learn more about Delegating Effectively? Contact me below.