What is Authority Delegation? Definition, Features, Steps, Principles, Importance, and Strategies

What is Authority Delegation?

Authority delegation is the formal process where a manager empowers qualified subordinates within a chain of command by granting them decision-making rights and work responsibilities.

This technique allows employees to utilize a manager’s authority to efficiently achieve predetermined goals. It involves sharing specific authority and responsibilities to enable effective decision-making and resource usage.

The delegator, typically a manager, transfers a portion of their authority while retaining ultimate accountability. The delegated authority can be restored as needed. This practice streamlines operations amidst growing complexities, reducing managerial workload, enhancing employee satisfaction, and fostering skill development.

In essence, authority delegation involves transferring decision-making power and work responsibilities to qualified individuals to achieve organizational objectives effectively.

Characteristics of Authority Delegation

Let’s explore the five key characteristics of delegation of authority:

Legality for Autonomous Action

Authority delegation enables subordinates to act independently within specified managerial boundaries. This legalizes their actions within the prescribed limits set by superiors, granting them the autonomy to perform tasks without constant supervision.

Delegation of Partial Authority

Managers delegate only a portion of their overall authority, retaining ultimate control and not transferring the entirety of their decision-making power. This allows for a strategic sharing of responsibilities without relinquishing complete managerial control.

Non-Delegation of Accountability

While authority and responsibilities are delegated, ultimate accountability remains with the manager or delegator. Subordinates are responsible for their tasks, but the final accountability for outcomes or decisions cannot be shifted entirely to them.

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Limited to Managerial Authority

It can only occur within the realm of authority that the manager possesses. They cannot delegate authority that falls outside their jurisdiction or exceeds their own authority level within the organization.

Potential for Restoration

The authority delegated to subordinates can be restored or adjusted by the manager based on evolving needs, performance, or changing circumstances. This flexibility allows for adaptability in the delegation process.

Steps in the Authority Delegation Process

For proper implementation of delegated authority, an appropriate delegation of authority is essential. Here are the six steps you can use to effectively delegate:

Define the Result

Before delegating authority, it’s crucial to communicate the expected outcomes clearly. Managers and subordinates need a shared understanding of the desired results. This involves outlining specific objectives, goals, and the intended impact of the delegated task. Clarity about the result sets the stage for effective delegation.

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Assignment of Duties

Once the desired outcomes are established, the manager divides and assigns duties to individual subordinates. Tasks should be distributed considering each person’s skills, expertise, and capacity to ensure the most efficient and effective allocation of responsibilities.

Assign Authority

Assigning authority is pivotal in delegation. It involves granting decision-making rights and empowering subordinates to execute the assigned tasks. This step aligns the responsibilities with the necessary decision-making capabilities, ensuring the delegated authority matches the delegated tasks.


It is not complete until the subordinate accepts the assigned task. Acceptance signifies an understanding and willingness to undertake the responsibility. It’s crucial to align the delegated task with the employee’s interests, skills, and motivations to ensure enthusiastic acceptance.

Create Accountability

While the ultimate accountability remains with the manager, delegating authority brings a level of accountability to the subordinate. They’re answerable for the tasks they’ve been delegated. Establishing clear accountability ensures that the delegated tasks are taken seriously and completed with due diligence.

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Continuous Monitoring and Feedback

Effective delegation doesn’t end with task assignment; it involves ongoing monitoring and feedback. Managers should provide regular guidance, support, and feedback to ensure the tasks progress as intended. Regular check-ins allow for course corrections, address obstacles, and maintain alignment with the desired outcomes.

Elements of Authority Delegation

Authority, responsibility, and accountability are the three major elements of authority delegation.


Authority is the sanctioned power given to a manager or superior to direct actions, make decisions, and assign tasks within an organization. Delegation involves sharing this power with subordinates, enabling them to carry out specific tasks or make decisions within defined boundaries set by the manager.

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Responsibility is the obligation to perform assigned tasks effectively. When authority is delegated, responsibility for the successful completion of these tasks is also transferred to the individual or team to whom the tasks are assigned.


Accountability involves the obligation to answer for the outcomes of actions or decisions made within the scope of the delegated authority and responsibility. It implies taking ownership of both successes and failures and explaining the results achieved. Ultimately, the manager retains ultimate accountability for the delegated tasks.

Principles of Effective Delegation

Effective delegation relies on several principles:

Clarity of Instructions

Clear and concise instructions should be provided when delegating tasks. This involves specifying what needs to be done, why it’s essential, the expected outcomes, and any relevant deadlines. Ensuring clarity prevents confusion and misunderstandings.

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Match Task to Skills

Assign tasks that align with the skills, capabilities, and expertise of the individual or team receiving the delegation. This principle ensures that the assigned tasks are within their capacity to perform efficiently and effectively.

Maintain Communication

Continuous and open communication is crucial. Regular updates, discussions, and avenues for clarification or guidance allow for progress tracking and addressing any issues that arise during task execution.

Balanced Authority and Responsibility

The balance between granting adequate authority and responsibility is critical. Ensuring that the delegated individual or team has sufficient authority to complete the task, but not overwhelming them with excessive responsibility, helps maintain a productive balance.

Provide Support and Feedback

Offer necessary support, guidance, and resources to aid in task completion. Additionally, providing constructive feedback at various stages of task completion fosters improvement, enhances learning, and encourages future successful delegation.

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Importance of Authority Delegation

Delegation is important in the workplace for various reasons.

Workload Management

Delegation helps distribute tasks among team members or subordinates, reducing the workload on a single individual. This allocation ensures that work is distributed evenly, preventing burnout and improving overall productivity.

Skill Enhancement and Empowerment

It provides opportunities for skill development and empowerment. Allowing individuals to handle diverse tasks fosters learning, and skill enhancement, and boosts confidence, enabling personal and professional growth.

Enhanced Efficiency and Time Management

Delegating tasks to competent individuals who possess the necessary skills leads to efficient completion. It frees up time for managers to focus on high-priority tasks, thereby optimizing time management within the organization.

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Encouragement of Team Collaboration

Delegation encourages teamwork and collaboration. It builds a sense of trust among team members and promotes a collaborative work environment where individuals feel valued and involved in the organization’s objectives.

Leadership Development

Delegation cultivates leadership skills among individuals. It allows them to take charge, make decisions, and handle responsibilities, nurturing leadership qualities essential for future roles within the organization.

Facilitation of Succession Planning

Delegation aids in succession planning by identifying capable individuals within the organization. It prepares potential successors by providing them with opportunities to handle responsibilities and tasks that align with future roles. This ensures a smooth transition when changes in leadership occur.

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Barriers in Delegation

There are certain barriers that prevent effective delegation of authority in the workplace.

  • Trust Issues: A lack of trust in team abilities inhibits delegation. Building trust through clear communication is vital.
  • Control Concerns: Fear of losing control over outcomes hampers delegation, hindering team development.
  • Confidence Gap: Doubts in team capabilities lead to hesitancy in delegating tasks effectively.
  • Communication Lapses: Unclear task expectations and goals impede delegation due to confusion.
  • Perfectionist Mindset: Managers aiming for perfection resist delegation, limiting team growth.
  • Time Constraints: Overwhelmed managers may avoid delegating to save time and effort.
  • Skill Limitations: Inadequate skills for delegation hinder effective task distribution.

Strategies For Effective Authority Delegation

Effective delegation hinges on fundamental strategies essential for successful task allocation and team development. Here are six strategies you can apply:

Clear Communication

At the core of delegation lies the necessity for crystal-clear communication. When tasks, expectations, and desired outcomes are explicitly communicated, confusion dissipates, and productivity skyrockets. Teams understand their roles, eliminating ambiguity.

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Identify Capabilities

Understanding team dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses allows for task allocation that leverages individual skills. Assigning tasks aligned with specific abilities enhances the chances of successful completion, fostering confidence among team members.

Training and Support

Empowerment through training and support is key. Equipping team members with the necessary skills and knowledge enables them to handle delegated tasks adeptly. Ongoing guidance instills confidence and ensures effective task execution.

Encourage Autonomy

Granting autonomy within predefined boundaries encourages team members to make decisions. This autonomy fosters creativity, innovation, and a sense of ownership, while simultaneously upholding accountability.

Regular Feedback

Consistent and constructive feedback on delegated tasks is crucial. It not only encourages improvement but also acknowledges positive efforts. Moreover, it aids in realigning objectives if necessary, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and growth within the team.

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