‘Under the pressure of escalating demands, most leaders adopt a command-and-control style of leadership with their teams’
In 2019, the responsibilities on the shoulders of leaders has never been greater, according to Dr Karen Morley, author of Lead like a Coach and Gender Balanced Leadership: An Executive Guide.
If leaders delegated more, they could cultivate greater trust while increasing both engagement and productivity, added Dr Morley.
So, what can HR professionals do to encourage leaders to delegate more?
“Under the pressure of escalating demands, most leaders adopt a command-and-control style of leadership with their teams,” said Dr Morley.
“They don’t delegate enough, they overwork and end up feeling overburdened. Teams disengage.”
Leaders and their teams end up producing less, while also jeopardising everyone's wellbeing and increasing the risk of burn-out, added Dr Morley.
However, leaders who put trust at the heart of their leadership take a different approach.
“Trusting leaders support and develop their people,” said Dr Morley. “They readily delegate work and responsibility. They do what they can to equip team members to do their best work.”
Not only does more work get done with better-quality, this also has the enormous benefit of relieving the pressure on leaders.
Dr Morley added that delegation is a good proxy for trust. When leaders readily delegate work and responsibility to their team members they show them that they trust them. Part of developing next generation leaders is to delegate, so leaders need to be flexible to give up status and power in the service of their team members, and this relies on high levels of trust.
“HR professionals have a key role to play in helping leaders to understand what delegation is, and to increase their confidence to delegate more frequently,” she said.
“HR also plays a key role in helping the organisation to take a learning rather than retributive approach to mistakes and challenges.”
According to Dr Morley, trust has two main aspects. The first is a willingness to be open to someone else’s actions. The second is a positive expectation that the other person will not exploit the situation for him or herself.
Dr Morley recommends the following steps you can encourage leaders to take so that they have increased confidence to delegate more often:
- Help leaders redefine their roles from expert to leader. Let their team members be the expert in situations that occur in their area of responsibility. If they put on a coaching cap, leaders keep responsibility with team members to manage their own issues and challenges.
- Help leaders change their focus to one of opportunity rather than mistakes. Set up a learning frame, and focus attention on the future, and what is possible, rather than on the past and what has already been done.
- Attune leaders to the impact of their power. When leaders use their power in a coercive way, they erode trust. By stepping back, they show trust by delegating responsibility back where it belongs. They offer guidance and support, rather than direction.
Through these steps, leaders’ mindsets shift. They can be more collaborative and generous when they focus on ‘how can we make this work?’
Dr Morley added that many leaders feel that they must step in, particularly when there are problems and crises.
“These are some of the richest opportunities for people to learn, so if HR professionals can encourage leaders to take a more open, coaching approach, to trust people to solve their own problems, they will be better equipped to avoid or respond adaptively to future problems,” she said.
When trust is high, engagement is high and more work gets done, according to Dr Morley. Key messages that HR managers can promote to encourage leaders to delegate more and increase trust:
- Leaders who extend trust, grow trust. Many leaders wait for their team members to show they are trustworthy. However, where leaders trust first, team members are more likely to reciprocate.
- Leaders who delegate, grow trust. A fast-track way to grow trust is to delegate. Leaders should not wait to see trust before they delegate. Delegate pro-actively, and grow trust.