Yes, yes I know; Micro-Management BAD, Delegation GOOD.
However, that is buying into a false dichotomy. One can delegate and still stay closely involved. All too often leader’s delegate in crucial areas and then totally walk away. At times this can come closer to abdication of responsibility then delegation. Total delegation may be appropriate in areas where the process and path are well known. However, in certain cutting edge initiatives, in certain fundamental key result areas ongoing involvement is frequently crucial.
One key is that a leader does not “micro-manage” out of lack of trust but rather stays intimately connected because they are incredibly passionate about implementing their vision for the business or creating a certain culture. Can we say Steve Jobs? Jeff Bezos? They are both (in)famous (and unapologetic) micro-managers and both built extraordinary brands and created unique organizations unlike any other. They had a vision and they backed that vision with their passion to ensure that it was executed properly. They also possessed the rare ability to do “Hands-On Delegation”.
1. There is a natural limit to what a leader can get involved with, “selective micro-management” is a MUST.
2. Strong Senior Management Team: If the leader is deeply involved in a particular key initiative, it is vital that the rest of the team be strong enough to cover other key areas.
3. “Hands-on Delegation” is not easy to pull off but great leaders possess the ability to handle contradictions. Indeed, the ability to handle short term and long term issues, as well as bounce back and forth between ground level views and 50,000 high feet perspectives is a must for any high level leader.
“Being able to handle, and indeed thrive, by doing two opposing things at once is a hallmark of great leaders. Such “ambidextrous” leaders intensely execute today’s game plan while sowing the seeds for what comes next. They are deeply analytical at the same time as they are looking for creative solutions to business challenges. And they are hands-on delegators. It’s a paradox only for the tired and the timid.” – Sydney Finkelstein, professor of strategy & leadership, Dean for Executive Education, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, author, “Why Smart Executives Fail”
“Sometimes I drove the agency and our guys nuts with my micromanaging of the process….Knowing when to meddle and when to let go was a pure gut decision.” – Jack Welch, b. 1935, GE CEO/Chair, 1981-2001,”Straight from the Gut”
“One of my favorite perks was picking out an issue and doing what I called a “deep dive.” It’s spotting a challenge where you think you can make a difference— one that looks like it would be fun— and then throwing the weight of your position behind it. Some might justifiably call it ‘meddling.’” – Jack Welch, b. 1935, GE CEO/Chair, 1981-2001,”Winning”