Business Leaders: Knowing When Not to Delegate

Those in positions of leadership know the importance of delegating certain tasks to the right team members. Of course, when the weight of every responsibility falls upon the shoulders of one individual within an organization, there is a raised chance for decreased quality and productivity, as well as missed deadlines or even burnout.

Image of business partners listening to female employee at meeting


First, let’s review some of the specific benefits of delegating the right responsibilities to key staff members.

Delegating advantages

1.      It offers leaders more time for planning and organizing.

2.      It helps new or apprehensive leaders improve their own management skills.

3.      Leaders will avoid spreading themselves too thinly.

4.      Employees and team members are encouraged to earn trust and communicate openly with their managers.

5.      Both leaders and employees may be able to gain and receive valuable insight from a different perspective.

Nevertheless, while proper delegating is a crucial component in effective leadership, those in supervisory positions must also be able to identify when delegating may not only be inappropriate, but harmful to a specific situation or the department and/or company as a whole.

Which tasks should never be delegated to employees?

1.   Leadership duties

The act of leading, in and of itself, should never be cast off to an employee without leadership experience. Business leaders possess specific people skills and they have the ability (and responsibility) to provide direction to their team. This is critical to the success of an organization. Furthermore, a business leader should be available to provide the necessary resources that employees need to be successful in serving their team, the company, and clients.

2.   Core Competencies

Leaders should never delegate the core responsibilities of their job. If you were hired based upon a particular quality or skill that would add value to the company, it’s likely not a good idea to pass off related tasks to a subordinate.  Delegating core competency tasks to employees or those in lower-level management positions could cause potential harm to the organization, as well as to your own job stability.

3.   Company mission and vision

These are certain values, individual to each company, which aim to unite and motivate all members toward a common goal or objective. Leaders are responsible for maintaining these values that drive the team. For this reason, implementing, maintaining, and enforcing these guidelines should never be delegated.

4.   Hiring new employees

Of course, an organization’s employees have a great deal to do with its success. It is, therefore, imperative that hiring decisions will always be made, or at least ultimately approved, by managers or team leaders.

5.   Onboarding new employees

Managers should have a hands-on role in onboarding new employees. When new hires see that management cares enough to make them feel welcome, leaders can expect new employees to offer their best efforts right from the beginning. They will be inspired to prove to company leaders that they made the right decision in hiring them.

6.   Team building

Organizations typically hire third parties to help with team building efforts. However, this task should never be completely outsourced to others. Similar to hiring and onboarding, managers should have a hands-on role in team building efforts, as both involve knowing how to create the proper synergy within a team. Leaders who maintain involvement with training and mentoring can personally help ensure that team members will work toward the fulfillment of the organization’s goals.

7.   Discipline and praise

Leaders should never delegate disciplining or giving recognition to employees. Some managers delegate discipline to the HR manager. Other leaders may delegate an employee to ghostwrite recognition letters or ask their assistants to purchase gifts for an employee who has gone above and beyond within their role. Discipline and recognition is only most effective when done sincerely and personally by team leaders.

8.   Crisis management

Whether an organization is attempting damage control due to the mistake of a staff member, or overseeing the evacuation of employees from the office in an emergency situation, leaders should be present and involved. This task should never be delegated to others with less experience. In fact, business leaders should already have a risk management plan in place. However, ascertaining ahead of time that employees know what to do in a crisis situation is crucial.

9.   Performance appraisals

Business leaders should always maintain responsibility for their staff members, and this means having an active role in annual reviews and performance appraisals. Appraisals frequently offer the opportunity for increased communication between supervisors and employees. Therefore, delegating this task to a subordinate – even a trusted one — may actually stifle important questions that team members may have regarding their responsibilities and job performance; prohibiting them from receiving the feedback they need and deserve.

10.  Reorganization

For a team to be reorganized objectively and effectively, final decisions must come from the top.  This is not to say that leaders are not to take an employee’s input into consideration, but ultimately, reorganization must be decided upon by the individual who is experienced in making these tough decisions.

11.   Investor relations and financial oversight

Business leaders should have financial oversight even if they do ask third parties to assist with monetary tracking. Leaders should be ultimately responsible in deciding what is working financially for the company, and what is not. This enables them to make correct and applicable adjustments before any irreparable damage is done. Investors also frequently require information about their investments, and they would rather receive it from the individual in charge.

12. Transformational changes

A business leader should be responsible for establishing the company’s vision and mission, as well deciding upon the implementation of any core modifications to the organization or its individual departments. Delegating this task to others less experienced can be disastrous.

Businessman hands working on laptop,Blurred background .

The Takeaway

While the support of a responsible and talented staff is crucial to the success of any company, leaders must know where to draw the proverbial line where delegation is concerned. Misusing (or overusing) your ability to delegate not only overwhelms your employees, but places the organization in unsteady hands. Properly and realistically assessing which tasks can — and cannot — be passed on to other staff members is the key to successful delegation and a well-run company.

Further reading:  Boss Redefined: What Makes a Great Modern Business Leader?


Fred Coon, CEO

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.