Benefits of delegation

To this point, our focus for improving our personal effectiveness has been on how we can develop ourselves. However, to be most effective, managers need strategies for getting the best out of other people.

Why? Because it can free the manager's time to focus on longer-term strategic issues and it can grow the talents of less senior colleagues.

Colleagues in the library discussing something that's on a laptop
Diane Lane, Business Director

Delegation and looking at the staff that I work with is important to allow me to concentrate on more strategic tasks.

Marsha Brown, Partnership Business Manager

I empower them with getting them to understand that they can do more than what they do. I give them opportunities to express and show me how they can, in other areas within the office, develop their skills to benefit the school.

Diane Lane, Business Director

I've bought in an apprentice and to look at the tasks that he's able to do in itself is a task for me to be able to look at the level of work that he would be able to cope with and also develop himself, so I've been able to give him specifically things relating to looking at parent enquiries, dealing with phone calls.

Marsha Brown, Partnership Business Manager

If I'm out of the office, my bursar, she can take all of my calls and deal with, at a first level, any areas that I deal with at a first level and handle that in my absence, and that has developed her because she then has an insight into my role and what I do and how she can chip in where necessary.
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While leaders and managers often stress the desirability of delegation, they do not always find it easy to put theory onto practice. In this video, our SBMs provide examples of how they delegate, and the benefits this brings to them and their teams.

This latter point is crucial. The notion of the 'heroic leader,' able to carry everything and everyone with him or her, is regarded as neither desirable nor sustainable in the 21st century. As Brown and Rutherford (1999) observe:

The notion of distributed leadership (or shared power) among managers, at both senior and middle management levels in schools, is widely promoted as a factor contributing to school effectiveness and school improvement.

Rather, effective organisations are seen to be those which are able to foster models of 'distributed leadership' capable of energising and engaging staff in order to release their full potential. This view was further reinforced by the findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (2006) 'Independent Study into School Leadership', which emphasised the complexity inherent in leading and managing schools and recommended more distributed models of school leadership.

'Distributed leadership works' features a discussion between some school leaders about their perceptions of it. It explores what distributed leadership is, how to introduce it, and how it might help make leadership more sustainable. You can download a PDF transcript or listen to an audio clip of the discussion.

School business managers also have a responsibility for 'succession planning' for their profession. Effective delegation can be a powerful way of growing the next generation of school business leaders.

The key purpose of distributed leadership is to build the capacity of the people working in the school, and create spaces in which they can extend their professional competency. It is closely related to the concepts of ‘succession planning’ and ‘talent management’. These are both based on the notion that a school’s most importance resources are its people, and that systematic action over time can ensure the sustainability of the school and its leadership.

There is a considerable amount of guidance on succession planning and talent management on the NCTL website (see 'Resources' below).

The key techniques of distributing leadership, planning for succession and developing talent are particularly pertinent to support staff in schools, where in some cases, their development needs have been historically overlooked. The National College’s report on the developing role and contribution of senior support staff provides a useful insight into both the benefits and the challenges of further developing this valuable human resource (NCTL, 2011).

If, therefore, there are good 'system-wide' reasons why school business managers should strive to be effective at delegating, there are equally powerful reasons at a personal level:

A manager is someone who gets things done through people. Delegation is nothing more than accomplishing results through the efforts of others. It is the manager's most basic and important tool.

(Burns, 2002:3)

Burns argues that what distinguishes successful managers from those who are less so, is the ability to delegate. The effective manager accomplishes results through others by overcoming the constraints of time and other resources. It is important to recognise the difference between 'doing' and 'managing'. Concentrate on managing and delegate the doing to others!

Covey (1992) looks at delegation in two ways:

Gofer delegation: "Go for this, go for that, do this, do that, tell me when it's done."

Stewardship delegation: Focuses on results rather than methods. It gives people a choice of method and makes them responsible for results. This method takes more time and involves clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment.

Both writers agree that effective delegation means:

  • making colleagues accountable for results
  • giving the person the opportunity to decide how to reach the desired results
  • transferring some of your own decision-making powers to others
  • providing supervision and resources to enable others to do the job


1.11: Delegation (part 1)

To help you arrive at your own view of what is meant by delegation, consider the following arguments.

Which of the arguments do you most strongly agree with?

  • Delegating eases the strain on me as a manager and creates time for more important tasks.
  • Delegating helps me to exploit the specialised knowledge and experience of others.
  • Delegating helps to promote and develop the abilities, initiative, self-reliance and competence of others.
  • Delegating has a positive effect on the motivation and job satisfaction of others.