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Levels of Delegation – What Smart Leaders in the Home and Church Understand

I find delegation difficult. It is much easier for me to do something myself. I know how I want it and cannot put it into words. In addition, over the years I have had a number of delegated projects that failed. As a result, I shy away from delegation.

But that is not a godly attitude. Whether you call it delegation, equipping, training, or empowering, one job of a leader in the church is to oversee. Oversee what? Among other things, oversee the saints carrying out the ministry of the body of Christ.

Leaders Are To Equip

Ephesians 4:12 states this explicitly when God tells us that he has gifted the church with leaders who are to equip the saints for the works of ministry so that the body will be built up. This equipping can be done through the public word ministry. But it can also be done directly by recruiting, delegating, and vision-casting.

Similarly, a husband who is leading his family well can and should delegate much responsibility to his wife. She is the one who is often executing in the day-to-day. He needs to delegate but not abdicate. He should want to develop her gifting and see her flourish. He does not want to be overbearing and micromanaging.

Why Is This Hard?

Many things make delegation in the church tricky. The motivation of the saint, the gifting of the saint, the humility of the saint all play a factor in the success of the delegation. Delegation at work and home introduce other factors. A business person has a paycheck hanging over their head. Home is much more highly relational.  

Many have written about the process of explaining, modeling, watching, and supervising. In this process, the leader explains what he or she wants done. He does the task in front of the trainee, and then watches the trainee do the task. Lastly, when satisfied, he backs off but continues to supervise and give the person appropriate feedback.

This is all well and good at a Chick-fil-A or some other business establishment. But other factors make it trickier in the church. Several years ago, I ran across an article by Michael Hyatt that provided an a-ha moment. I realized the issue was not in how I was delegating but in the way I was defining the word. Hyatt suggests that there are in fact five levels of delegation. Many mistakes happen because we assume we are delegating at one level but the other person thinks we are delegating at a different level.

Five Levels of Delegation

  • Level 1: Do exactly what I have asked you to do. Don’t deviate from my instructions. I have already researched the options and determined what I want you to do.
  • Level 2: Research the topic and report back. We will discuss it, and then I will make the decision and tell you what I want you to do.
  • Level 3: Research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation. Give me the pros and cons of each option, but tell me what you think we should do. If I agree with your decision, I will authorize you to move forward.
  • Level 4: Make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop. I don’t want to be surprised by someone else.
  • Level 5: Make whatever decision you think is best. No need to report back. I trust you completely. I know you will follow through. You have my full support.

Be Clear!

Can you see how these different levels can bring about misunderstanding? I remember one instance in particular where as a church leader my expectation was a level 2 delegation. Instead, the other person heard level 5. They were going to take complete control. Needless to say, that project was a train wreck.

Wise leadership will delegate authority and responsibility. But wise leadership will also make clear how much authority it is delegating. This clarity up front can prevent misunderstandings in the family, in business, and in the church. 

This five-fold level of delegation has changed how I lead in the home, in the church, and in the ministry. It is one more tool to help me overcome my fear of delegation.