THE BLOG
01/08/2015 03:40 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2015

Learn to Delegate

Leaders delegate. It is that simple. If leaders do not delegate, they do not lead long--or, at the very least, not very well.

By delegating, more--much more--can be accomplished. Importantly, too, leaders give those to whom they delegate confidence and experience, and they have the opportunity to observe, to test, those to whom they delegate. In the process, leaders develop leaders.

Every great leader--from military giants Genghis Khan (yes, Genghis, was a great leader) and George Washington to business icon Andrew Carnegie--delegated, and they delegated often. They recognized the obvious: No one can succeed by doing everything oneself.

No one (at least, no one in your mind) can do the job as well as you can. Yet, if one tries to do someone else's job, one either will drive the other person away or one will be saddled with the wrong person. Simply stated, anyone who puts up with micromanaging should not be on your staff.

This lesson was learned by me early in life. While attending military summer camp, my commanding officer called me in and said I was potentially his best officer. He quickly added, though, I would be dead two weeks after I got to Vietnam. When I asked why, he answered my own men would shoot me because I was trying to do everyone's job. (I never did have to worry about being shot by my own men; despite applying for a medical waiver, I was denied my commission as a result of a congenital defect.)

Since that day, I have been one of the world's great delegators. I still wanted to know what was happening in each area for which I had ultimate responsibility; however, I never tried to do someone else's job. Well, almost never.

Early in my first presidency, I was dragged before the National Labor Relations Board because campus workers, realizing I was listening to them and acting in their best interests, wanted to have their union decertified. I, of course, deferred to my counsel, as I should have. When things appeared to me to be headed in the wrong direction, however, I decided, despite my very strong belief in the need to always delegate, to act on my own behalf and argue my own case. Fortunately, we won.

We never see ourselves as others do, and I am sure some of those with whom I worked felt, by wanting to be fully informed about their area, I was not letting them do their job. I do not recall incidents, however, when I tried to do someone's job or make decisions for them.

Ultimately, one bears responsibility for the decisions of those who work with you. One must remember, though, if the problem falls within their area of responsibility, the decision should be theirs to make.

One should not make others' decisions. If one does, one may not find others want to shoot you; however, one will quickly learn they will not want to work with you. So, let those on your staff do their jobs!