November 17, 2008 Tony Morgan

Empowerment Versus Delegation

On Friday, part of the discussion I had with the coaching network guys was related to the differences between empowerment and delegation. We took about 15 minutes to brainstorm a list of the differences between the two. Here’s part of where we landed:

empowerment vs delegation

Here’s the reality. It’s a lot easier to delegate tasks. And, there are instances, particularly in emergency response situations, where delegation is necessary. In the long run, though, empowering other leaders is the way to build healthier organizations. It will be messier along the way, but you end up in a place where your organization can have a much bigger impact and more people will be fulfilled in their roles.

Do you agree? What would you add to the list?

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (21)

  1. Jenni Catron

    This is HUGE! I completely agree. The point you make about being messier is SOOO true. I’ve given myself this speech a lot lately. Empowering takes more work on the front end.. guiding, coaching, encouraging, realigning when needed, etc but once you have empowered someone to own it, the results are exponential. I find that I will never get out of the details if I only delegate. Only in developing others will I reach my full potential as a leader.

  2. Killer. Nailed it. Straight on. On the money.

    Simple delegation of tasks squashes leadership. Delegation of responsiblity and empowerment fulfill that responsibility breeds leadership.

  3. Hi Tony! Totally agree! I have seen many “Team Leaders” say they empower their leaders but really it is just delegation! I strongly believe in empowering leaders and releasing them! Jesus would always teach, train, release. If you as a leader can not release, you will always limit the organization in which you work! Trust, empower, release! If you can’t trust them; you can’t empower them. If you can’t empower them; you can’t trust them! Find leaders you can trust and empower!

  4. I love this and need to do more of this. I like the “pushback is welcome”. Confident leaders desire this while in secure leaders are intimidated by it. Part of ownership of the “task” is questioning.

  5. The two columns here can appear to be a very fine line until you’ve either been the recipient of empowerment, or have grown into being an empowerer yourself. Empowering people is risky business, but allows you to grow your own influence and effectiveness exponentially once you’ve allowed it to become habit.

    It’s kind of like parenting, marriage, etc… It’s not something you can DO. It’s a matter of small corrections (translation: decisions) over time that change your own gut instincts when leading people.

  6. Robert

    In the spirit of your definition of empowerment, the definitions of delegate and empower both are defined as a transfer of power to another individual. Your lists are great, just not your list titles :).

    I don’t understand your bullet in the Empowerment column that says “I’ll let you contribute the last 5%”. ?????

  7. I loved it. I actually just finished writing a blog post entitled “leaders.” about the difference between a leader and a boss. There IS a difference between the words empowerment and delegation… Great post.

  8. What are you delegating? When empowering others you are actually delegating authority (not tasks). When things don’t go the way you like, the leader must be careful to train and educate rather than “undelegating” authority. Undelegating – that is publicly overriding the given authority even once – sends a clear message to all that empowerment never really happened, we just liked the idea as long as it works. Empowerment takes committment to backing your people’s decisions and training and educating at the same time.

  9. Especially love the tasks vs results. As far as me following someone, I would love for them to communicate that to me instead of here’s what you HAVE to do, do it this way!

  10. Hey Tony,
    Great stuff. We have been talking about this since your visit. I think intuitively I’m an empowerer, not a delegater. And because of that it’s hard for me to help people make the change. I just do it intuitively. So to get this list is awesome. Another discussion for our staff meeting.

  11. Trouble is, so many times, “leaders” don’t want messy. They want pristine, so they hold so tightly to the reins that it’s barely delegation.

    Hard to struggle against that and learn a better way, but I’m trying.

  12. Juliana

    Thank you so much for the post. You helped me a lot during my exam revision)

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