9 Levels of Delegation for Senior Leaders

So, is it better to be underled and overmanaged or overled and undermanaged?

Neither are particularly great, especially in a complex organisation such as a school.

Flip the coin and we should either get great management or great leadership. We need both of course.

And both require skills and abilities and it is essential to have energy, enthusiasm and hope.

This is what Brighouse and Woods tell us in their terrific book Inspirations: A collection of commentaries to promote school improvement. 

They talk about the importance of delegation as a critical skill and sharing the leadership load:

The first rule of leadership is that it is shared.

Delegation is the hallmark of great leadership.

But this isn’t a free-for-all.

There are considerations and so they suggest there are 9 levels of delegation which serve as a useful guide.

9 Levels of Delegation

1. Look into this problem. Give me all the facts. I will decide what to do.

2. Let me know the options available, with the pros and cons of each. I will decide what to select.

3. Let me know the criteria for your recommendation, which alternatives you have identified and which one appears best to you, with any risk identified. I will make the decision.

4. Recommend a course of action for my approval.

5. Let me know what you intend to do. Delay action until I approve.

6. Let me know what you intend to do. Do it unless I say not to.

7. Take action. Let me know what you did. Let me know how it turns out.

8. Take action. Communicate with me only if action is unsuccessful.

9. Take action. No further communication with me is necessary.

Brighouse and Woods say that leaders have to decide where to be on the above spectrum and this will depend on the people concerned and the tasks involved.

There are of course other views about delegation.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management says that

Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off,

And that’s key.

If you can trust your staff to make decisions then being at number 7 in the spectrum is a good place to be as this frees up your time and helps others to develop. The real problem is staff going too far and making decisions that leave you feeling uneasy and so you might end up in room 5.

Think about a current scenario and consider where on the spectrum you’d place a member of staff. Trust is a massive factor here and so getting the right people on your team is incredibly important.

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