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Jethro and the art of delegation

To delegate isn't to fail; it is a crucial part of leadership

A young public leader recently told us We see delegation as a failure…we feel inadequate as we don’t have the gifts to do every single bit of it”.

Delegation is a crucial part of leadership. It is simply not possible to do everything yourself. I have written previously about the importance of having a support network for your vision. But delegation isn’t just about support, it’s about utilising the gifts of others – gifts you may not have – to advance your shared vision.

In Romans 12:6 – 8, Paul writes of the different gifts God has given to each of us. These include serving, teaching, encouraging, and leading. You might be an excellent visionary leader, but not so good at encouraging your supporters or staff in their day-to-day work towards the vision. You might be dedicated to ensuring that you take a turn at serving the coffee rota, but useless at teaching anyone how to write a blog about your vision. This is not a flaw in you – God planned it like this!

We think of Moses as a standing-apart-from-the-crowd leader of the Israelites after they fled from Egypt, but even he had a support group: his brother Aaron, sister Miriam, apprentice Joshua. And in Exodus 18, he receives some invaluable advice on delegation from his father-in-law, Jethro. After spending a day watching Moses work, Jethro sees that the system in place simply isn’t sustainable. No doubt drawing upon his experience as a priest in Midian, he gives Moses a few top tips:

Ultimate praise goes to the Lord, not the human actors through whom He has acted (v9-12)

He said, Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.”

Don’t let work take over — don’t micromanage and exhaust yourself (v14-18)

Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?… The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”

Appoint talented, faithful people of integrity who can support you in taking the workload (v18-23)

But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials”

When things get tough, don’t leave your team to work everything out, but be there to step in (v26)

They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.”

“Don’t just delegate tasks to the next generation. If you delegate tasks, you create followers. Instead, delegate authority to create leaders.” – Craig Groeschel

It takes trust to delegate, particularly if we are working towards a vision that it is important and personal to us. But it’s the only way to make that vision into a reality and when you delegate the things you can’t do – whether because of your skill set, your time availability, or other reasons – it frees you up to do the things that you are uniquely called to do.

Delegating is particularly important if you want your vision to outlive you. In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the 12 disciples – he delegates responsibility to them, and they are able to heal and minister in his name. Later, after his death and resurrection, they are trained and experienced to continue his ministry; because they shared his vision, and shared his authority, they were able to spread his ministry.

Delegation can be as simple as asking a talented friend to write a professional letter to the council that formalises your enthusiasm and passion, recruiting a fellow parent to create an artistic banner for your event. Or it could be hiring a new member of staff to take some of the workload from your shoulders.

But how much better if, rather than simply asking for some help, you share the vision for what you intend to do and give them the authority to extend the movement? You may find that they perform the task, project or job you would give them with extra passion, urgency and understanding.

Perhaps you will recruit not just a one-time helper but a committed partner, someone that will take the vision in new and exciting directions.

What gifts do you know you don’t possess? Where can you find trustworthy people to join your team and fill in these missing pieces? How can you delegate authority so that others feel part of your vision and have the desire, passion and urgency to move it forward?

Photo by raw​pix​el​.com from Pexels

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has a BA in Ancient History and a MSc in Political Communication. Abi loves going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty. Much to her dismay, she ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK - a pastor's kid.

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