Steps to Turn Control into Delegation

ControlIn my blog ‘Can Obedience nurture Trust?’ my thoughts were about shifting from blind obedience to trust. Control and delegation are a part of the same story. Let’s challenge them here now.

Control is the act or power of controlling or regulating people's behavior … or to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate. All responsibility is with a control-holder.

History has repeatedly shown how problematic is to effectively restrain power from someone once it has been granted to if a strong system of control, checks and balances is in place. People tend to – when given control or power – exercise them far beyond the legal, actually given, authority. Such anomalies are not excluded in business.

What is Delegation?

To delegate means to give to another person a task or duty or activity meanwhile retaining responsibility for the outcome. The latter is the key since while delegating, you are still responsible for the outcome!

So, where lays the difference between the two if responsibility still remains in the same hands?

Well, control, as we have seen, can be misused when delegate hardly.

Essentially, when you delegate you are giving away a part of your own tasks, work, power and responsibilities. As a leader you should delegate to free up your time, but not so that you can enjoy free time while others work. No, this is the time awarded to you to spend visioning, strategizing, planning, analyzing, reviewing and/or just plain thinking.

When delegating responsibility for the accomplishment of a task, work or function also the necessary authority should be granted as well as obliging a person to whom you've charged with the job the necessary accountability. But, never delegate the things that only you are empowered to do.

Appropriate delegation is essential to any leader. By the act of delegating, a leader is not relinquishing control but is actually expanding the realm and scope of monitoring via feedback. With his authority a leader is a legitimate power to direct employees or to take action within the scope of his position and he takes responsibility and is accountable for what an employee does or fails to do.

SheepWe, human beings, are not like ‘sheep’ and many of us don’t willingly submit to authority without feeling some tension. It is the tension between our urge to conform to our cultural social norms and/or the organizational one. We all need some autonomy and freedom. Our impulse to express our autonomy begins in childhood when challenging and rebelling against parental authority. It is a way to develop an independent sense of ourselves.

A leader should understand that delegating is a part of responsibilities that go along with leadership. It has to go hand in hand with effective training of people that he leads how to do part of the whole job or helping people to be prepared for the next move in their career. It is not an easy task and needs some clear steps. First a leader should outline in detail the task, activity or responsibility and the time-frame. Then he should assign the required authority and resources and ensure assignee is equipped and empowered. After comes the time to monitor via feedback (see: Feedback in Leadership) by providing channel(s) for support and assistance when something is not following the expected way. And finally, the excelling leaders do not wait for assignee to ask for help but rather check early and often to make sure things are on the right track. People are empowered and not controlled –there is no time and option for control which only takes time and responsibility away.

Teaching, delegating, receiving and giving feedbacks are obviously key ingredients if a leader follows the path of leading by example. Successful leaders are using it preferably to any command, directive, e-mail or memo. When leading by example a leader is always on stage: being observed, analyzed and interpreted. No time for relax even when delegating ….


  1. That is really good and informative article, going to share it with others as well. Thank you for sharing it here with us and keep posting such posts


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