What's the most underrated leadership skill?
According to Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Group, it's the simple ability of leaders to "delegate and let go."
"If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you've got to learn to delegate." — Richard Branson.
Richard Branson isn't the only one who attributes his success, at least in part, to the ability to delegate and let go.
Here are six other highly successful business people— leaders and entrepreneurs who feel just as strongly about delegating—and six delegation quotes that will inspire you to become better a leader through the art of delegation in the workplace.
1 — Jessica Jackley: American Businesswoman and Entrepreneur
Jessica Jackley is best known for co-founding Kiva and later ProFounder, two organizations that help individuals loan small amounts of money—called micro-loans—to entrepreneurs throughout the world.
Jackley attributes part of her success as an entrepreneur in her ability to prioritize and delegate.
"As all entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritize. You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay, or skip the rest."
2 — Eli Broad: American Philanthropist and Entrepreneur
Eli Broad is the only person to build two Fortune 500 companies in different industries (KB Home and Sun America). As of April 2015, Forbes ranked Broad as the 185th wealthiest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $7.1 billion.
According to Eli Broad, "the inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels."
The following is an excerpt taken from his book, The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking, which is available at most bookstores and online booksellers.
"Once you've identified your crucial tasks and sorted out your priorities, try to find a way to delegate everything else. The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.
The trick to delegating tasks is to make sure your employees share your priorities. Bosses should make clear what qualifies as an emergency, which situations require a team, individual, or leader response, and how far each person's duties and abilities can be stretched.
Find the best people to whom you can delegate, and know their strengths and weaknesses. If you think you can do it better, delegate anyway and try as hard as you can to close that gap by giving your colleague or employee the right feedback. Then recognize and accept that just because someone does something a little differently than you would, that doesn't mean it's wrong. What counts is that your goals get accomplished at a sufficient level of quality."
Want more delegation tips? Check out this article from our friends at TimeDoctor: What is Delegation of Authority and Task Allocation?
3 — Andrew Carnegie: Scottish American Industrialist
From rags to riches, Andrew Carnegie knew how to hustle to get what he wanted. Scottish born, he immigrated to the United States with his very poor parents in 1848. Carnegie started work as a telegrapher, and by 1899, he owned over 25 percent of American steel production. By 1902, he was the richest man in the world.
Once Andrew found success, he became a master delegator.
His tombstone reflects this and reads, "Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself."
Andrew believed, "No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit."
He once told a friend who told him that he got to work at seven in the morning:
"You must be a lazy man if it takes you ten hours to do a day's work. What I do is get good men and I never give them orders. My directions do not go beyond suggestions. Here in the morning I get reports from them. Within an hour I have disposed of everything, sent out all my suggestions, the day's work done, and I am ready to go out and enjoy myself."
4 — Donald Rumsfeld: American Politician and Businessman
Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and oldest person to have served as Secretary of Defense.
"Don't be a bottleneck. If a matter is not a decision for the President or you, delegate it. Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it."
5 — George S. Patton: United States Army General
George S. Patton was a United States army general best known for his leadership of the Third US Army in France and Germany following the allied invasion of Normandy.
Patton was a brilliant leader and a delegating mastermind who understood he needed to focus on the most important tasks at hand and be close to the troops in order to win the war. How else could he have made his mark in history? On the subject of delegation he once said:
"Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results."
6 — David Ogilvy: English Advertising Executive
David Ogilvy was widely hailed as "The Father of Advertising." In 1962, Time magazine called Ogilvy "the most sought-after wizard in today's advertising industry." Ogilvy's success can be tied directly back to his ability to hire smart people, delegate, and let them do their jobs.
"Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it . . . . Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine."
Do You Know How to Delegate?
According to a study on time management conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), 53 percent of 332 polled companies have a "somewhat high" or "high" level of concern about the time management skills of their employees, and 46 percent feel the same way about workers' delegation skills.
Despite studies and proof from successful leaders and business people like Richard Branson that the ability to successfully delegate is critical for business growth strategies, delegation is still quite possibly one of the most underrated competencies in leadership.
There is hope however for busy executives, small business owners, and entrepreneurs who want to delegate more but struggle with scheduling skills or who are overloaded with administrative tasks.
Hire well; specifically, hire a good personal assistant or a remote personal assistant also known as a virtual executive assistant or virtual assistant who can take some things off your plate while also contributing to your success.
Become a More Effective Leader
If you need help delegating, here are a few options to help you:
- Join executives, entrepreneurs, and industry-leading professionals from around the world who use our research-backed advice and services to become more effective delegators and productive leaders. Download our free guide: How to Use Delegation to Be a More Impactful Leader
- Book a free consultation call with Prialto. We can help you regain more of your time by offloading repeatable tasks to a fully managed virtual assistant. One of our experts will help you create a plan to delegate your tasks and we will even train your VA for you.
- If you know someone else who’d benefit from being a better delegator, share this post with them via email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.