Crisis in Leadership: Fear of Delegation


But when we feel insecure in our leadership, we try to keep tight reins on everyone and everything in our reach.

Leaders who are secure look for opportunities to delegate, not only small tasks, but major responsibilities as well, stepping back and encouraging others to take greater ownership. They recognize people may do things differently than they do, but are happy as long as the work gets done in a timely manner and people are learning and growing. Moses rejoiced when he found out that others were prophesying in the camp and said, “Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29).

But when we feel insecure in our leadership, we try to keep tight reins on everyone and everything in our reach. We often become micromanagers—telling people exactly what to do and how to do it. If it is not done to a T, it can be taken as insubordination.

We find reasons to do things ourselves instead of delegating responsibilities and encouraging growth. Often we sound godly and perfectly logical in our reasoning, saying things like...

  • “Why bother them? I am more capable of doing this.”
  • “They are not as experienced as I am. I can do it better.”
  • “I can’t risk this job—I better do it myself.”
  • “This might be too hard for them.”
  • “It would be irresponsible to have him do this now. He is not ready.”
  • “He is too young—people won’t listen to him.”
  • “I don’t want him to become discouraged if he can’t do it, so I will do it instead.”

It may be true that projects need our input or people are not yet ready for greater responsibilities, but we need to be careful. This sort of controlling spirit often marks a leader who feels threatened.

We can start thinking that being the only one who knows how to do something makes us seem more important to our superiors because nothing can go on without us. But it can also be a sinister way of keeping our subordinates “in their place.” So instead of empowering others, we tend to say, “You don’t need to know that. Just do what I tell you.”

We can become leery of approving projects without changing them somehow. Even if it was perfectly done, we feel compelled to “make our mark.” If something was allowed to pass without changes, it would “prove” we were not more qualified than the people around us and that we were not essential to the end product.

Whether we realize it or not, we give the impression that nothing is ever good enough without our expertise and input. This sort of direct control is deeply discouraging to those who work with us. People don’t have the opportunities to grow and make mistakes, so they remain inexperienced. They can start thinking, “I can never do anything right. Why am I even here?”

Not only do people lose heart, but by making it so no one can function without us, we also become a bottleneck. And soon we can cause slowed growth and development in others.

We naturally try to find security based on external stimuli—praise, affirmation, titles, respect. But stimuli change all the time. They are not something we can control. So instead of looking for security in God, we fight to find stability by trying to control every situation around us.

Clutching at a Title

Being the “in-charge” gives us a sense of stability and control. The more insecure we feel, the more important our title becomes. So when there’s a change in our superior’s demeanor or even the hint of a change coming to our position, all of a sudden we can become nervous and frightened. We worry about being moved, losing favor or being demoted, so we strive even harder to prove ourselves.

And when our position seems unstable, we easily become jealous and suspicious of any talented individuals around us who might someday take our place.

Sadly, our title becomes our identity, and it is hard to imagine life without it. It doesn’t matter if that title is small-group leader, director, secretary or Sunday school teacher—our position and standing become incredibly important to us.

Although true leadership is based on influence and not on titles, having a position to call our own seems to provide a sense of security, so we hold onto it with all our strength.
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