The toxic leadership blog

Delegation: A Key to effective leadership

As you examine the notion of delegation, it’s important to think about if you are managing “for” people or “with” people. You may be scratching your head at the semantics. This mindset shift is important as we think about the very different impacts these notions can have on people.

Essential question

How can leaders effectively delegate, managing co-operatively with their teams?


As you examine the notion of delegation, it’s important to think about if you are managing “for” people or “with” people. You may be scratching your head at the semantics. This mindset shift is important as we think about the very different impacts these notions can have on people.

Leading for People

As you think about Leading for people, imagine a leader who is amazing at planning out work, setting goals. This mindset is typically found in leaders who have been promoted for what they do and not how they lead. These leaders essentially do all of the work, with no consideration for their employee’s input, skills, or talents. This is unintentional of course and typically manifests due to the leader’s inability or unwillingness to delegate.

Examining the Impact

This notion of doing things for people can sometimes facilitate a slide into paternalism and condescension. I have worked with many leaders who micromanage to a point where they are unable to complete their tasks because they are wrapped so tightly into the deliverables of who they lead. This becomes a vicious cycle of toxicity where the leader is overwhelmed by the multiple hats that they wear and perpetuation of overworking, combined with them resenting the fact that their employee doesn’t “take initiative” and “go above and beyond”. Unfortunately, leader…you’ve never given them the chance.

Leading with People

1. Cultivate leaders by setting expectations and resist the urge to define “how”

One of the most effective ways to lead is by setting direction allowing employees to chart their destiny. In an interview that I had with Dr. Rodney Smith, Vice President for Access and Engagement at William Jewell. I used the metaphor of providing employees with the canvas and letting them paint.

“Show employees the canvas, let them paint.” -Kevin Sansberry, S1/E1 Toxic Leadership Podcast

If you simply operate in a way where you are putting in all the effort as a leader, you are missing out on their creativity, ideas, and perspectives.

2. Ownership is a great way to foster initiative

As you examine ownership and why it is important, we should first examine the impact of work and adjust tasks that fit within employee’s strengths and talents. You must then allow for voice to traverse up and down the organization. This is tough for some leaders because it takes the leader out of the driver’s seat and allows the employee more agency and authority over their work. This is beneficial as it cultivates ownership which I am sure many leaders would appreciate.

3. Seek coaching if you are in the way

Many people take pride in their work, and they should. The issue is some leaders are too territorial for their own good. Seek coaching to root out some of these aspects of delegation avoidance. A great coach will help create action plans and small tests of change to cultivate an environment where the leader feels safe to try something new.

All in all, leadership is a matter of reciprocation. If you are looking for your people, then your people will look after you.


Delegation: A Key to Effective Leadership


How can leaders shift the way they show up? Instead of doing this “for” employees, how can leaders effectively work “with” them?


Leaders should actively examine first why they “get in the way”. Is this due to mistrust? What message is this sending to employees? Leaders should look to delegate tasks that can assist the employee in their own growth. Leaders should monitor progress and continually remove barriers.

Check Out The Toxic Leadership Podcast

  The Toxic Leadership podcast shares with listeners practical resources so that they too can begin to detoxify themselves, their teams, and their organizations. Lastly, we interview key leaders and experts as they share their insights regarding how to detoxify organizations — to improve retention, increase productivity, and bottom-line profitability.

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