Why Young Leaders Struggle with Delegation

Any leader can struggle with delegation. It is one of those things that we know we should do, but rarely do we do well. This struggle is often intensified with young leaders who are just realizing what it really means to lead those who lead.

Carol Walker wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Saving Your Rookie Managers from Themselves.” Many of her thoughts are applicable to young leaders who struggle with delegation. By combing a few of her thoughts with my own, let’s look at four reasons why young leaders struggle with delegation:

1. Fear of losing prominence

Because of their age, young leaders typically have not held their leadership role for any significant period of time. This lack of tenure can lead to a sense of insecurity. And while this can push the young leader to work hard at their new role, it can also cause the young leader to personally oversee numerous projects in hope of being perceived as invaluable. But they are undermining themselves. This strategy for security will only limit their ability to lead.

2. Fear of relinquishing control

Trusting in your own ability is easy. But this is not leadership. Leadership requires trusting in another’s ability. Up until this point, many young leaders only needed to rely on their own ability to achieve goals. But now they must rely on another’s ability. This requires relinquishing some level of control, a scary thought for many young leaders.

Trusting in your own ability is easy. But this is not leadership. Leadership requires trusting in another’s ability.

3. Lack of patience

“I can get it done more quickly if I just do it myself.” We all have thought this. And it may be true, at least for that one task. But this mentality leads to a piling up of tasks. Eventually, you find yourself no longer leading, but coming to work every day to complete a to-do list.

4. Fear of overburdening their team members

Most young leaders want their team members to be happy. They want them to enjoy their jobs. So, out the fear of overburdening the team, they hold onto tasks that should be delegated out. And now, it is young leader who feels overburdened and unhappy.

So what do young leaders need to do? How do they learn to delegate? Here are three suggestions:

Gain a better understanding of the role

Technical skills are not unimportant. However, young leaders who struggle with delegation should focus more on understanding the conceptual and motivational aspects of their role. Leading people who lead people requires a different mindset and skillset than more task-oriented roles.

Learn the strengths of individual team members

Understanding the strengths of team members will assist the young leader in two ways. First, it can build confidence in the team members’ ability to carry out assignments. Second, it will help the young leader determine which assignments should be delegated to specific team members. And, hopefully, they will learn that there are those on their team who can carry out certain assignments better than they would be able to.

Try to delegate a few small tasks

Young leaders can select smaller, more easily accomplished tasks to delegate to their strongest team members. This allows the young leader to start developing a sense of comfort towards delegation. And as they do, they will realize that they can now lead better, accomplish more as a team, and give their team a greater sense of involvement in the life of the organization.

What about you? Why do you think young leaders struggle with delegation? What tips do you have to help them overcome these? Please place your comments in the section below.

4 Mistakes Young Leaders Make

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Why Young Leaders Struggle with Delegation

  1. Thanks for a practical post, Art. I teach session on delegation in Leadership class at CIU and you say some significant things in a few words. I’ve learned in church work the truth of the following maxim, on imp. of very clear instructions/directions. It is adapted from CS Lewis’ advice to writers:
    If it is possible to be misunderstood, you will be! Keep serving strong.

  2. With a background in business and church I have watched this over and over. I have young leaders right now struggling with the whole aspect of prominence and how to share it. They are very reticent to help someone build something if their own name doesn’t headline and insecure if someone on their own team gets credit. Not sure if the confidence and skill to win that took me twenty years to build is something they expect to be handed? So many off limits conversations…..:)

  3. As a young leader in ministry I have a hard time delegating because it appears to me that I’m trying to “make up” positions just to give leaders something to do all the while the personal call to making disciples gets neglected because we’re busy planning programs and activities. I often feel pressured to create leadership teams and positions because I realize it’s the recommendation of those in generations before me. But when I look at my current context, it appears that that way of thinking has given a lot of people something to do and a sense of purpose without requiring them to embrace the personal aspect of discipleship. Everyone wants something to do until they’re asked to sit with lost people/new believers and talk with them about God over coffee. To me, creating these teams seems to over-complicate things and they seem unnecessary. Don’t I, as a ministry leader, just want to prepare leaders to continue multiplying themselves through a simple and biblical discipleship process? If so, I don’t know what all the leadership teams are for other than meeting together to challenge one another to continue in the faith. Perhaps my understanding of ministry is to simplified. I would appreciate feedback. I should specify that my leadership team is made up of volunteers, not paid employees.