Delegation – A Matter of Trust

By Clarence Bradbury

Let’s face it – some of us are downright fussy, finicky, fastidious in the way we go about running the Lord’s business.  We want things to go a certain way so we end up undoing or re-doing what others have done; or just doing it ourselves.  We get restless when we go a full day (or just an hour!) not knowing exactly what our people are up to. 

They call us micromanagers.

How can we tell if we have the micro-managerialitis virus?

Where does it come from?

Is there a known cure?


Here are some symptoms to look out for:

–       Telling:  talking TO rather than WITH your people; giving orders with a what-where-when-how approach

–       Swooping: being impatient, diving in and taking over an action, process or project

–       Snooping: looking over the shoulder or requesting too many updates

–       Controlling: Withholding  needed information, not pointing people to known resources

–       TMI-ing:  Asking for too much information and reporting when a simple phone call or e-mail update would suffice

Much time can be consumed feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of our tasks.  Pastors in other churches express amazement at the complexity of the life and work of Salvation Army officers.  We face impossible challenges with very limited resources.  Employees and volunteers may be few; yet the demands have to be met, along with reports on how many are met.  If effective delegation is one important answer to our productivity deficit, why don’t we delegate more?


If we fail as delegators, it is rarely due to a single factor.  It is usually a combination of these perspectives:

  • Servant Leadership – Seeking to serve others, we can mistakenly deprive others of the service to which God is calling them.  Servant leadership refers more to the spirit of leadership than the sum total of the deeds of service we provide.
  • Doing it right – Worried that something may not get done to our preferred specifications, we choose to do it (right) ourselves.
  • Disappointment – Looking at past failures of others who have dropped the ball we passed to them, we are reticent about another let down.
  • Confusing allocating with ordering – Jethro encouraged Moses to empower the front line to get the job done.  He didn’t need to give them detailed orders for the task. When the allotted work got too hard for them, then they could bring it to Moses
  • Losing the spotlight – Sometimes our emotional insecurity or pride causes us to fear that the superior ability of others, in a delegated area, will raise their profile beyond our comfort zone.
  • Confusing strategy with “lost time” – Effective delegation and follow up consume more time at the onset than doing it ourselves.  But missing this strategy results in overall output equal to the capacity of the Lone Ranger leader.
  • Being too busy to think – Sometimes we get so enmeshed in our roles and tasks that we just don’t think straight. I doubt that it ever occurred to Moses he could lead in a different way because he likely was so busy doing that he never stopped to reflect.  Moses didn’t seem to see the difference between doing the job and getting the job done.  Jethro was wiser.


The Lord’s business needs godly leaders who are prepared to utilize every legitimate boost toward success.  Here are some proven strategies for effective delegation.

Have Confidence in Others.  Jethro helped Moses see hidden and unused allies.  Investing in them, he developed a functional and flexible structure to facilitate the work.  This reminds me of a ministry couple in a tiny corps.  They were challenged to start a creative arts program.  With no qualified workers and no visible resources, they prayed, then started sharing the vision.  They visited neighbors, talked with their children’s school teachers and sought advice from local service clubs.  Within months they had enlisted the partners and found the resources needed. The program became an instant success as an effective evangelistic and caring expression of the Army’s mission.  What they did reminds me of Kathy Kolbe’s adage ( focus on your uniqueness and delegate everything else.

Have Courage to Let Go.  Every hour we spend as “chief cook and bottle washer” is an hour taken away from investing in our primary role.  The advice of President Theodore Roosevelt contains timeless wisdom for delegation: The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.  After getting the arts program up and running, the young couple referenced above re-invested their time coaching their leaders and shaping the future of the corps.  Their confidence in their people enabled them to fully release the ministry into their hands.

Have Competence for Deployment.  Knowing the competencies of others in our circle of influence, we can extend God’s Kingdom by passing tasks, projects and functions into the hands of people who are appropriately gifted.  If we delegate appropriately, the match of project with gifting will bring satisfaction to the worker and success to the work.

In support of these solutions, here are five proven delegation strategies:

  1. People become resentful if we delegate things we simply find unpleasant, but they find satisfaction in helping with tasks they know we would gladly do if we had the time.
  2. Affirmation is appreciated.  Be specific with your praise and appreciation. This adds dignity and energy to the partnership.
  3. Our natural way of solving problems remains constant through life.  Give people freedom to do things in their own way.  Doing it someone else’s way may cause much undue stress and fatigue.
  4. Playing favorites demotivates people; therefore, it is important to delegate based on who is most suited for the job, not on who we like.
  5. It’s easy to make the mistake of over-delegating.  Certain responsibilities rest solely with the leader (visit this month’s links for more about what not to delegate).

There may be nothing harder than stepping away from a habit of micromanagement.  It takes honest self-evaluation, along with coaching from a trusted “Jethro”.  But it’s worth the transformational struggle if we care more for the mission than we do for ourselves.  The payoff will be immediate, as we witness developing talent, satisfied workers, multiplied ministry and a growing culture of healthy leadership that honors God and blesses people. May this prayer bring blessing to you today:

Thank you Lord for the great privilege and responsibility of being a leader

Forgive me if I have exercised my leadership in selfish ways

If I have seen leadership as an opportunity to get my own way,

Or to have control over others,

Or to draw attention to myself,

Or to seek the praise of others.

Enable me to be a responsible leader,

To recognize and encourage the gifts of others,

To be willing to work closely with others,

And above all to model my leadership on that of our Lord,

Who did not seek to minister alone

But to multiply his Kingdom work through people like me.


Visit our Leader Development Series for this month’s EQUIP lesson on Delegating Tasks and Developing People

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