Releasing Leadership

March 12, 2013, 0 Comments

Every father of daughters looks forward to and simultaneously dreads a particular moment in his life: the giving away of the bride. It is a moment that you work for all of her life and then happens in a matter of moments.

As the father of boys, I’ll happily stay on my side of the wedding ceremony aisle.

The entire point of moment in the ceremony is for the bride’s family to release her into the life of another, new family. Release is a necessary part of life. It is no different in the life of leaders. However, I have observed that it occurs at a haphazard pace and with an uneven hand.



Just as a clear moment in a ceremony, the delegation work by a leader should happen with great intentionality. As the leader, you should identify the points of work and types of work where people will be released to lead on their own. More importantly, you must identify when they will lead on their own.

Many people enter your organization with the intention of being a leader in the field in the near future. Your work as a leader has much to do with discernment. A leader is a watcher of people. You watch them work, learn, and mature into leaders. The timing of delegation is both art and science.

The art is in watching a person develop skill and influence. The science is setting a plan before them that allows them to learn what is needed.

The art is in encouraging team members toward maturing themselves. The science is in personally guiding them through the process.

The art is in knowing when they are developed well enough to lead. The science is in knowing when they are developed well enough to lead. (Yes, that one’s the same.)



Delegation needs guardrails. Why? Because releasing new leaders is the activity that multiplies your work but can derail it as well.

Guard to the left against abandonment. Many leaders are so ready to get some work off of their own schedule that they delegate with too much permissiveness. It is not the fault of the work but of the leader. It is the point at which we allow our character to be compromised.

Abandonment often occurs because of two reasons. First, it is done in a bid for personal reprieve. We have worked hard, stayed up late, and paid our dues. Now, we think, it’s time for someone else to do the work for us. So, without any further aid, we set new leaders off to their work and rarely check back in with them. Secondly, we have overestimated the new leader’s abilities. The science of your release process has been completed but the art of it has failed.

Guard to the right against micromanagement. The other danger is only living with the illusion of delegation. Many leaders have lived this scenario as well. Perhaps as a young leader, you remember being told that the project was in your hands. But every time you turned around, the original leader was countermanding your decisions. He or she is second-guessing the strategy. And, worst of all, those who you are supposed to leading are still really answering to someone a level above you.

Micromanagement happens because we have delegated too quick to a person not ready for the responsibilities. It also happens because the person doing the micromanagement is not ready. No matter the case, the timing is completely wrong.


Finding Solutions

My guess is that many of us (the author included) have done some abandonment and micromanagement style releases. Let me offer a couple of quick ideas that will help if you have already done some delegating and you’re not sure what to do now.

Set up a regular time for check ups. Releasing those in your organization into new fields of leadership is not a “good bye.” It should always be a “see you soon.”

Find out what else they need to learn. Leaders must be learners. The problem is that new leaders don’t know what they don’t know. As a more seasoned veteran, help them to discover what they need to know next to do what is next.

Aid them in extending the strategy. As a released leader executes strategy, be willing to take a place in the shadows as they lead their own team. Your work now has more to do with being a coach than anything else. The strategic direction has been laid out and now you can help them charge forward in it. Leading from the side does not relegate you downward to do so. In fact, it will give you a stronger place in your organization when you help others lead well.

Allow them to participate in leadership multiplication. The greatest hope for your organization is to multiply multipliers. As you delegate work, you must create a culture of releasing new leaders. The task of creating new leaders will eventually pass to someone else so you should make it intentional. Today, decide who you will bring into the process of creating the next level of leaders in your organization.


Delegation. Release. Next generation. Development. Multiplication.

Now matter what you call it, make it intentional. And start today.

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