The next day Moses took his place to judge the people. People were standing before him all day long, from morning to night. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What's going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?"
Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me with questions about God. When something comes up, they come to me. I judge between a man and his neighbor and teach them God's laws and instructions."
Moses' father-in-law said, "This is no way to go about it. You'll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you – you can't do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men – men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible – and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They'll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They'll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they'll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you'll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also." (Exodus 18:13-23, The Message)
1) Delegation is not an option. If you don’t do it, you will burn out completely and you will take your followers with you. Here’s what happens: The better you are at your job, the more you will be asked to do by more and more people. Everyone has only 24 hours in each day, along with their own personal threshold of how much they can handle at one time. I assure you, no matter how good of a time manager you are and no matter how smart and strong you may be, there are more problems than you can handle on your own!
2) Be a teacher and a leader to those you appoint as delegates. A common problem for those who finally decide to delegate is that they swing to the opposite extreme and take their hands completely off the reins. If you delegate authority without training, mentoring, and communicating with your delegates, you will have five or six separate missions under you, all being accomplished poorly. Train, mentor, and communicate with your delegates, and you'll have five or six leaders focusing on a common goal.
3) Always be on the lookout for people who are competent, both as technical specialists and as leaders. Look into the crowd and find the folks with the strongest personalities. Find the ones who don’t join in with bitter, needless complaining. Seek out the example-setters… those who are experts at their job and do their best work, regardless of having a watchful eye over them. These are the folks who need to be grown into leaders, and it is your job to get them there!
4) Delegate to a few people under you, and then to a few people under each of them. If you trust in their leadership and their insight, you should allow them to choose their own delegates. If they are young and you see great potential, but they lack leadership skills, choose their delegates for them and make leadership-training part of your mentoring time with them. Either way, if you don’t let them have delegates of their own, they will be less effective and limited on what and how much they can accomplish.
5) Delegating does NOT mean that you get to sit back and do no work. You have to supervise, but you also have to keep your own technical and leadership skills sharp. While you needn’t know how to do everything (this is part of why you delegate), letting your own technical expertise slide will cause you to lose respect in the eyes of both your followers and your peers. Your followers need to know that they can come to you when they have really tough, technical questions, and that you will either have the answer, or that you know how and where to find it.
The above is part of a series of blog posts entitled, “Leadership Lessons from the Bible.”