#034: Help me delegate! I just realized I can’t do it all!

For some reason, a lot of leaders think they are the most qualified person to do all the work, and make all the decisions. They have a real aversion to delegation.

Delegate, Moses, Jethro

Even when they attempt to delegate they can’t resist the temptation to insert themselves back into the very work they just delegated. The result of “delegation aversion syndrome” is overwork, burnout, divorce, low morale, and ultimately, failing organizations.

Moses was appointed by God to shepherd the nation out of bondage in Egypt and take them into the Promised Land. He took this responsibility very seriously, and as a result, he tried to personally take care of every little problem that arose. Imagine, trying to settle all the issues that would come up between a few million people on a march that lasted 40-years!

Moses’ father-in-law sees all the work Moses is doing trying to lead the people and knows that he will wear himself out, so he offers advice on why and how to delegate some of his workload.

17  Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good.
18  “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.
19  “Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God,
20  then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.
21  “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
22  “Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.
23  “If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18:17-23 (NASB)

Five things we learn from Jethro and Moses about delegating

  1. Be Humble and Open to Receiving Counsel. Moses listens to Jethro’s advice and considers it openly in the light of his responsibility to God as the people’s leader.
  2. Know Your Role. Jethro confirms Moses’ role as the people’s representative before God, the interpreter of God’s law, and the one responsible for teaching it to the people.
  3. Train Up Qualified Leaders. Jethro tells Moses to select men who fear God, who are truthful and honest and train them to be leaders over the people.
  4. Establish Procedures for Handling Major Issues. The men that were placed in positions of leadership were commissioned to judge certain types of disputes, but major issues were to be brought to Moses.
  5. Confirm Your Plan with God. Jethro gives Moses his advice but adds that Moses should check with God, and only proceed with the plan if God tells him to move forward.

Application

  • Be Humble and Open to Receiving Counsel. Leaders need to be humble, and open to receiving counsel from trusted advisors.
  • Know Your Role.  As a leader, you need to know what your top-level responsibility to the organization is, and be disciplined about not engaging in work that detracts from your primary responsibility.
  • Train up Qualified Leaders.  One of the primary responsibilities of every executive is to train up leaders throughout their organization. Not having qualified well-trained leaders is one of the most commonly cited reasons for failure within organizations.
  • Establish Procedures for Handling Major Issues.  People have to know what level of responsibility they have and the freedom to act within it. Make sure that these procedures are documented and communicated throughout the organization.
  • Confirm Your Plan with God. We often are in such a rush to deal with an issue that we develop a solution in our minds and rush straight to execution, without coming to God to see what His will might be!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Are you a leader who regularly delegates authority? Have you been a Jethro to a Moses—someone who gave advice? Have you been a Moses—someone who received advice? Did you seek God’s wisdom before you acted?

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Category: Skills | Delegation

 

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