Blog Top 5 Reasons Why Executives Don’t Delegate 

Top 5 Reasons Why Executives Don’t Delegate 

Mar 7, 2023

7 min read

Picture this: you need to bake a cake for an upcoming birthday celebration completely on your own. That process would most likely look like this: finding a recipe, going grocery shopping, preparing the ingredients, mixing the batter, baking the cake, adding decorations, and cleaning up the dishes. Now imagine that you had a team where each person was responsible for one of the steps and all you had to do was provide them with the objective at the beginning.

The second scenario will give you a faster result, due to the segregation of duties and less mistakes and the increased focus of each person involved. The key difference is that you’re delegating in the second scenario, instead of doing everyone yourself. 

This skill, shared among the most successful CEOs from the Inc. 500 list, was found to generate 33% more revenue than those with low-to-moderate delegation skills. The same applies to start-up executives. Despite knowing that having this skill generally makes executives become better and more supportive leaders, many executives struggle with delegation. In this article we’ll learn the reasons why leaders don’t delegate and the advantages that come from effective delegation.

What is delegation?

Delegation is the assignment of authority to another person to carry out specific activities. Effective delegation involves trust and empowerment. Trust being a crucial component of delegating effectively as leaders must trust their teams capability to complete tasks, make choices, and produce results. Ineffective delegation involves micromanagement and excessive oversight. Delegation poorly can result in miscommunication, delays, mistakes, and even team member’s demotivation. 

Delegating effectively can be a powerful tool for leadership as it helps executives prioritize efficiently and thus leading to increased productivity. Through delegation, executives are able to increase both their performance and that of their team’s. 

Find more on our blog regarding effective delegation


Why don’t leaders delegate?

We interviewed and studied executives at some of the fastest growing start-ups in the world and found three common challenges they faced. Some of these executives founded their start-ups without having any formal leadership training or experience, which further amplified their challenges.

“I can do it faster myself”

The truth is that you probably can do a task faster yourself. Delegation requires an upfront investment that doesn’t always yield immediate time savings. But the beauty is that the investment is upfront only, while the benefits are recurring. Think about the second time, third time, etc. that you need to execute a task – you will save valuable time in each of those instances all because you took the time to delegate the task the first time. By saving time on these tasks you’ll likely be focusing on the things that need your expertise and attention instead. 

Not delegating enough can also lead to mental and physical fatigue. As tasks pile up and others are left on the back-burner, the risk of becoming overwhelmed and burned-out increases. The risks associated with prolonged stress can take a detrimental toll on your performance as a leader. Learn more about how to manage burnout in our blog.

why leaders don't delegate

“I can do it better myself”

Early on, this is often the case. But with coaching and practice, your team will surprise you with their results. In many cases, your team will be able to bring a new perspective to the task and perform it more effectively or efficiently. Think about yourself. You didn’t get to an executive position by doing tasks at a subpar level compared to your leaders. You took work off their plate and executed with autonomy. 

Delegating work also gives your team the chance to improve their skills and capacities. By assigning duties according to their strengths, you’re enabling your team members to take responsibility for their work and increase their confidence at work. In order to give your team members the training and assistance they require to advance in their roles, it also helps to understand where they excel and what are their areas of improvement.  In the end, delegation allows you to take use of your team’s abilities and talents to produce greater results and, eventually, propel your company’s success.

Also, delegation fosters teamwork and collaboration within your company, which can result in a more dynamic and effective work environment. When leaders know how to delegate effectively, they enable their team to understand the importance of achieving a common objective. This encourages team members to become more trusted and respected as a result, and they are also inspired to share their talents and experience and learn from one another. 

“I feel bad, my team is already busy”

The downside of having an underutilized team is far worse than having an overutilized team. The former leads to boredom and low-performance cultures. Insufficient responsibility can cause team members to feel unchallenged and disengaged, which lowers motivation and decreases productivity. This may result in developing a culture of complacency, where team members settle for doing just enough to get by, rather than pushing themselves to be the best. 

The latter leads to growth and prioritization. If your team is “too busy”, chances are that they’re focused on tasks that aren’t a priority, and you can help them re-prioritize their workload as opposed to simply adding more to their to-do list. In addition, your team will learn to manage your expectations. You shouldn’t be saying “no” for them. They should feel comfortable saying so. By doing so, you can make sure that you’re minimizing resentment and burnout and ensure your team is operating at its peak performance.  

A great way to avoid this assumption is by asking them a simple question in your 1:1. On a scale of 1-10 how much work do you feel is on your plate? This will give you a good idea whether someone can handle more or not without having to assume.

how to delegate to a busy team

“I might make myself obsolete”

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” – Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Meta). Leaders who operate with a mindset that they should make themselves obsolete are those who will be recognized as the strongest leaders as opposed to working themselves out of a job. By delegating, you as an executive will be able to:
(a) Free up time to focus on what you do best

(b) Empower your team and build a stronger company infrastructure

(c) Achieve results with greater quality and speed.

A strong leader should empower the team so well that they can operate without them. 

A good test for this is asking yourself, what would it take for my team to operate for 1 full month without me? Filling in the gaps for that answer is what a strong leader is able to answer well (even if they never end up taking an entire month off)

“I don’t know how”

Interestingly, this is more common than you may think. After all, delegation isn’t taught at university nor is training provided in many organizations. As a result, many executives learn through trial and error. Every executive needs to start somewhere. Here’s a three step process you can follow to delegate:

  1. Get into the mindset that you can’t do everything yourself. That means wiring your brain to 
  2. Determine which tasks can vs. can’t be delegated. The simple question to ask yourself is “Do I specifically need to perform this task?” If the answer is no or I don’t know, you can delegate the task.
  3. Delegate an urgent task using the 5 Ws. Download our free Notion template here: The 5 Ws of Delegation

Delegation is an essential talent for leaders at all levels of an organization. Despite the temptation to hang onto duties and obligations due to a need for control or perfectionism, not delegating can have serious long-term effects. Without delegation, leaders run the risk of becoming reaching burnout, restricting their personal development, and ultimately slowing the growth of their team and business. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks and responsibilities to your team members, and then watch as your organization benefits from their combined efforts.

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