Tag Archive for Delegate

Delegate Like Moses

I am not a micro-manager, nor do I try to do everything.  I have learned (sometimes in humiliating fashion) that there are many who have far more knowledge and much greater ability than I do.  And so I have also learned the value of asking questions and letting other people do what they do well (as I shared in a recent post).  At times, though, that has not prevented me from trying to control, manage, or do everything, usually because of the mistaken assumption that only I can do what needs to be done in the way that it needs to be done.  The result, typically, is that I become exhausted or overwhelmed, others are deprived of the opportunity to grow and excel, and there are things that get missed, all because I did not delegate.

Exodus 18:13-27 provides a fantastic example of the lesson of delegation.  Moses, the leader of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, was hard at work doing what leaders often do:  managing conflict.  His father-in-law came to visit, and observed Moses’ leadership activity, and this is what he saw: 1) Moses was the primary decision-maker, and 2) it was consuming him (v. 13).  In fact, it is worth noting that he was so committed to the task of ministry that he was unable to tend to his family (verse 2 says that Moses had sent his wife and children to stay with her parents during this time).  When his father-in-law observed this, he decided to step in, paint a picture of what was happening, and provide some counsel to teach Moses the value of delegating.

A verse-by-verse analysis of the passage provides a wealth of information that helps us understand this principle of delegation.  First we see the problem with Moses’ failure to delegate (vv. 14-16), and the resulting impact (vv. 17-18). Moses’ method of leadership revealed: 1) Micro-management – he was trying to do it all, by himself; 2) Over-commitment – it was consuming his entire day, to the neglect of other needs; 3) Self-importance – he believed he was the only one who could do it; and 4) Spiritual justification – he justified his behavior as an important task for God.  The effect of this method included: 1) Collateral damage – it impacted the people around him who were trying to help; 2) Burn out – he was literally wearing himself (and others) out; 3) Over-burdened – he was carrying too much weight and responsibility, which would make him ineffective; and 4) Isolation – he was trying to do all this by himself, which left him alone.

Then we see the proposed solution (vv. 19-22) and the expected benefit (vv. 22-23) of changing his method.  A change in leadership style, specifically by learning to delegate, would involve six components: 1) Advocating – establishing himself as the representative of the people; 2) Communicating – expressing expectations and instructions; 3) Selecting – choosing additional leadership, people who are capable, have integrity, and fear God; 4) Delegating – assigning tasks and responsibility; 5) Empowering – providing the authority to serve and lead in the assigned roles; and 6) Regulating – establishing the hierarchy, division of responsibilities, and process of managing and supervising.  The result of this type of delegation would make the work of ministry much easier.  Because the load would be shared, it would produce these benefits for both Moses and the people: 1) It would be God’s work, not Moses’ work; 2) As a result, the direction would be more clear; 3) The burden would be bearable; and 4) The customers would be satisfied.

Moses did listen to his father-in-law (demonstrating a teachable spirit) and incorporated these suggestions in his leadership practice.  This passage in Exodus concludes with a description of how he did this, by selecting competent leaders and giving them their responsibilities. They fulfilled their responsibilities well, while Moses continued to manage the most difficult issues and conflicts.  This is a powerful lesson and example for us as leaders.  All too often, under the guise of “serving God,” we do too much and do it by ourselves, believing that this behavior is a mark of spirituality and a servant heart.  In reality, it makes us ineffective for God, and most of the time, it damages relationships (particularly those closest to us – our families).  Learning to delegate is a valuable principle and practice of leadership, demonstrated by Moses.  Let’s follow that example.

Quotable (Andy Stanley)

“Upgrade your performance by playing to your strengths and delegating your weaknesses.  This one decision will do more to enhance your productivity than anything else you do as a leader.” (Stanley, 2003)

Stanley, A. (2003). Next Generation Leader. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Publishers.



Most people are probably familiar with the children’s tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Goldilocks becomes lost in the woods, finds a seemingly empty house, and lets herself in.  Once inside, she begins to make herself at home to the comforts that she sees.  And then you know what happens:  one bowl of porridge is too hot, one is too cold, one is just right; one chair is too big, one is too small, one is just right; one bed is too hard, one is too soft, one is just right.  I have found a similar dilemma in the struggle with balancing personal leadership strengths and weaknesses, and in compensating for my weaknesses.

Early on in my leadership, I believed that the people around me needed to think that I had no weaknesses, otherwise my leadership would not succeed.  So I did everything I could to deny and cover up and to allow my strengths to so dominate, that people (so I thought) would not catch on to my weaknesses.  Like porridge that is too hot or a bed that is too hard, this sounds like compensating too much!  I was trying to over-compensate for my weaknesses by ignoring them, and trusting my strengths to cover them up. This may be an obvious statement: that didn’t work for very long.

Further along in my leadership development process, it seemed that my supervisors focused almost completely on my weaknesses, and not my strengths.  In my performance reviews, they would acknowledge what I was doing well, but quickly move on to a lengthy discussion of my weaknesses, focusing on the attention I needed to give to those weaknesses to improve and eliminate them.  I now believe this approach sounds like the other extreme, compensating too little.  I found myself under-compensating for my weaknesses by instead focusing all of my energy on improving them, to the detriment of my strengths.  Gordon MacDonald, in Ordering Your Private World, explains it this way: “I normally invested inordinately large amounts of time doing things I was not good at, while the tasks I should have been able to do with excellence and effectiveness were pre-empted.  I know many Christian leaders who feel that they spend up to 60 percent of their time (perhaps a lot more, actually) doing things at which they are second best.” (2003, p. 88)  The result will be, as Andy Stanley shared in The Next Generation Leader, that “the moment a leader steps away from his core competencies, his effectiveness as a leader diminishes.” (2003, p. 21)

So where do you find the balance of “just right”?  I found the best answer for me in Stanley’s book, when I read this: “Upgrade your performance by playing to your strengths and delegating your weaknesses.  This one decision will do more to enhance your productivity than anything else you do as a leader.” (p. 33) Within my own particular make-up, the idea of delegating areas where I was weak to someone who had that area as a strength was a novel and revolutionizing thought for me.  I realized that I did not and should not need to do everything; rather, I could and should rely on the strengths and skills of others.  I needed to focus on my strengths, doing what I could do best.  However, I also needed to self-analyze and identify my weaknesses (and takes steps to improve where it was practical and beneficial, but not at the expense of developing my strengths).  By strategically evaluating both myself and those around me, I could learn to appropriately compensate by putting my energy into those things that I would do well, and enabling and empowering others to do what they would do well.  In the process, others would grow and develop, I would be better at those areas on which I was focusing, and the organization and environment in which this took place would flourish.  It makes sense.

MacDonald, G. (2003). Ordering Your Private World (Revised ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Stanley, A. (2003). Next Generation Leader. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Publishers.