Delegate Control; A pathway to stronger leaders

September 8, 2023


A pathway to stronger leaders

The quality of your leadership is the single most important factor that will determine the success or failure of your organization.  As the world becomes increasingly complex, success requires effective leaders who cultivate adaptability and drive performance within their team.  Effective, active layers of leadership throughout your organization will help drive solutions to the complex disruptions we regularly face.  


Friction is the force that makes simple tasks difficult.  As organizations experience friction, senior leaders tend to tighten their grip and micromanage their businesses – a natural response we all fight. This tendency, rather than empowering subordinate leaders to work and solve the problem, actually limits the adaptability of the organization.  It also stifles innovation and reduces the problem-solving incentive of lower level leaders.  When subordinate leaders are trusted to lead their teams and make decisions, it creates “buy-in” to the mission, provides ownership of solutions, and incentivizes innovation and creativity.  This creates immense value for organizations of all sizes.  In order to accomplish this, we must first have leaders that push authority to lower levels of leadership, but we also must prioritize training and development for our leaders.  There’s nothing more compromising to an organization than having unprepared and ill-equipped leaders.  Prepare and equip your leaders so they can respond effectively when you need them most – in the face of friction and adversity.   


If the uncertainty of the last year has done anything positive for organizations, it is the revelation that leadership weaknesses have been exposed and gone unnoticed for some time.  Many companies realized that they had people in leadership positions with no leadership capabilities.  Start by getting the right people in the right positions, and prioritize leadership attributes over experience.  

Nearly every combat mission I led in the Marine Corps was riddled with uncertainty and ambiguity.  Although there was always a detailed plan in place and a purpose for our actions, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.  We were continuously forced to adapt and make decisions on the move under intense pressure.  We succeeded as a result of proper training combined with the trust our senior leadership placed in us to problem solve, innovate, and execute our plans.  The most elite organizations were prepared to succeed anywhere because the senior leadership implemented tough, realistic training and the critical elements below into their organizations.  

Establish and communicate a clear intent 

Instead of telling your team what to do, provide a clear intent and centralized vision of the desired outcome based on your strategic understanding of the situation.  Empower your small unit leaders to develop a course of action around that desired outcome and delegate control as much as comfortable.    

Always listen to the individual on the ground

One of the best commanders I’ve ever worked for lived by this mantra.  It is arguably the most important leadership lesson I learned over hundreds of combat missions.  Our generals and senior commanders were always observing our actions on the battlefield, but they were not always “on the ground” next to us to gain the full picture.  Effective leaders have the wisdom to seek the insight and perspective of the individuals “on the ground” in order to build a better understanding of the task and challenges at hand.  

Trust and empower your subordinate leaders to work the problem

No matter how complex the problem, resist telling your team exactly how to solve it.  Doing so creates an environment full of passive followers that lack initiative.  Instead, increase their maneuvering space to work the problem at their level, allow them to develop an actionable plan to support the desired outcome, and empower them to execute their plan.  As they execute, create a proper feedback loop and look for ways your staff and others can support their efforts. This will create layers of active leaders in your team.


Developing a multi-layered network of leaders in your organization creates freedom.  It results in increased “buy-in” at all levels, improved creativity and innovation, and organizational adaptability.  No matter how challenging the situation becomes, resist the urge to control everything, and instead, develop your team by increasing the maneuvering space of your subordinate leaders to work problems at their level.  Remember, healthy, well-balanced organizations intentionally prioritize the time and effort into developing leaders who are empowered to thrive in any situation.

Ready to Lead?

Prepare to roll up your sleeves.

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