How Delegation Can Make You a Better Leader

Although author Peg Tobin wrote her book Delegate or Suffocate with nurses in mind, its lessons on how to evolve from employee to manager to leader are universal.

In fact, anyone who accepts a position of authority for the first time, or who struggles to understand their ongoing role as a manager, will find Tobin’s book enlightening and even entertaining. Tobin draws extensively on her own experience as a registered nurse working her way up the hospital hierarchy to weave a narrative that is funny, heartwarming and highly informative.

As the author sees it, leadership entails a number of traits that, while accessible to everyone, require considerable insight and personal growth to maintain consistently. These include:

Honesty: Because a leader leads by inspiring confidence and trust, honesty—on display through sincerity, integrity and candor in all actions—is paramount. Without honesty, there can be no trust, and without trust, a leader simply cannot hope to influence her followers. Honesty also means being straightforward in your thinking so your actions and decisions reflect your core values.

Fairness: If your actions are based on reason and moral principles, you can avoid decisions biased by prejudice, petty emotion or personal desire. A leader has to keep an open mind and seek out diversity of opinion and perspective in order to make informed decisions. At the same time, she must display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests and well being of others.

Vision: A critical distinction between managers and leaders is that leaders are always facing forward toward the future and the goals they’ve set. But simply having a vision for the future is not enough. They must communicate it throughout the organization and inspire others to embrace it.

Confidence: Confidence and the perseverance needed to accomplish your goals is not the same as stubbornness. Rather, it involves the courage to accept other points of view even as you lean in to overcome insurmountable obstacles—and inspire your followers to do the same. Confidence isn’t displayed with bluster, but with a calm demeanor in times of stress.

Imagination: Finally, leaders must have the imagination not only to create and communicate a vision, but also to make timely and appropriate changes in their thinking, plans and methods as situations evolve. Imagination also involves curiosity and a thirst for lifelong learning.

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