Tom Nies on the art of delegation Featured

8:01pm EDT June 30, 2011
Tom Nies on the art of delegation

Delegation is the essence of leadership. It is the soul of management and the empowerment of the organization. Those who will not delegate cannot lead, cannot manage and cannot help grow an organization through the empowerment of its most important resources and assets.

All leaders and organizations achieve their goals and their visions through their people. The strength of an organization comes from the diversity, not the conformity, of its skills and capabilities. An organization is a team of individuals with unique gifts, backgrounds, personalities and strengths. The key is to realize that all of these individuals, with all of their unique strengths, are using their energy working toward the same goal of completing a project, improving the bottom line or growing the organization.

Who to choose

The first key to delegating is choosing the right people to whom any authority or responsibilities will be delegated. There is such a wide spectrum of people ranging from the outspoken to the reserved, from extroverts to introverts, from technicians and administrators to marketing and sales to management, from experienced to relatively newer staff that no cookie-cutter approach could ever be effective or successful. But certain character traits surface in successful examples of delegated authority.

Right attitude

The right attitude is one of the most important aspects to be considered. To determine someone’s attitude, their beliefs must be determined. Beliefs govern behaviors and behaviors determine what someone becomes — attitudes are begotten from beliefs.


Attitude is also a function of character, personality and core values. You can’t readily or easily guide a rude, dishonest, abrasive, amoral, insensitive, bigoted, lazy or narcissistic person to be polite, virtuous, genial, principled, thoughtful, tolerant, energetic or selfless.  This is an assessment that has to be personal and delicate. If you fall short today, you might learn, grow and become the superstar of tomorrow.

For some people, good character and simple human decency are not in their current nature and may never be. But many people are self-starters and self-motivated, flexible and adaptable, they do take responsibility and admit mistakes, are energetic and resourceful, are goal-oriented and achievement-driven.

It’s this kind of person to whom we must ultimately delegate authority. So, the people you recruit and select today will largely determine the culture of an organization, the service an organization renders to the public, and the reputation and success the organization will enjoy or endure in the future.


Once you’ve identified the correct person to delegate responsibilities and authority to, you can’t just throw tasks at them. You must use one-on-one mentoring, group learning, team dynamics and on-the-job experience to guide and shape the capabilities of the person to make sure the task will be successfully completed. The proper budget, technologies and facilitating and enabling support must also be provided.

Effective communication is imperative in a delegation situation. The delegator should not dictate the communication, rather, the delegator should inquire, question, guide and support the chosen person to clarify and enhance mutual understandings, agreements and accomplishments.

Just as the delegator should not dictate communication with those to whom they delegate tasks, they should also not lapse in communication. Delegation is not an abdication. The person to whom something is delegated takes on some of the responsibility and accountability of the task, but the delegator must take responsibility for making the decision — be it good or bad — of whom to transfer power to.


You must always remember: Everyone who has responsibility is always responsible to someone else. And, you are all working together to empower your organization or realize a goal. There is no greater joy than seeing your company soar on the wings of people you have empowered by trusting and delegating responsibilities and authority to.

We end as we begin. Delegation is the essence of leadership. It is the soul of management and the empowerment of the organization.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. To learn more about Nies, go to