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Notes from Leadership Jazz

| July 19, 2005

by Jim Bruce

One of my favorite books on leadership is Leadership Jazz by Max DePree.
Max was chairman of the board of Herman Miller for many years.
Leadership Jazz is primarily a set of personal stories about leadership.
I first read the book about 10 years ago and have found that rereading
it as well as a set of notes that I took one time has really been
For this weeks reading, I am sending you my notes the book’s chapter
on delegation.  I hope that you will find them to be a helpful reminder
of some of the key steps you need to take when you delegate.
     o Keys:  Clear instruction, confidence expressed as a high
expectation, and an obvious trust in the individual’s abilities
to do the job.
     o Dumping is not delegation.
     o Delegation is a way of enabling people to participate, to grow,
to reach toward their potential.  It gives people the
opportunity to learn by doing, to take risks, and to become
comfortable with the consequences of their own performance.  It
is central to participation and growth, to working and being
accountable.  It is a serious, high-risk, and high-potential
meddling in other people’s lives.
     o What does delegation require?  Careful observation, layers of
skill, much feedback, and some failure.
A leader must be able to separate the issue from self; must
surrender or abandon ourselves to the gifts that other people
have.  We must become vulnerable to every person’s need to do
his/her best.
Delegation requires that a leader clearly state the corporate
vision, a vision to be fully shared and discussed and
scrutinized.  Understanding and acceptance must follow.  Only
then can leaders enroll followers in advocacy.
Delegation requires trust.
Delegation requires leaders to bring delegates a clear statement
of expectations, to enumerate the job’s goals and requirements.
     o What do delegates need?
–  A defined purview.  They need to know their authority and
  accountability.  The leader must become their mentor.
–  A defined reality, the mission’s validity, and an
  understanding of the work to be done.
–  An acceptance of the work.
–  A statement of goals.
–  A discussion of failure.  What happens if the project fails?
–  Access to the leader.  The leader’s commitment to the
  delegate’s success.
–  Encouragement in both words and behavior.
The dictionary defines delegate (noun) as one “sent and
empowered;” and as a verb, “to entrust to another.”
     o What are the constraints?
–  The requirement that something get done.
–  Leaders keep the same ground rules over the course of the
–  A delegate must keep the leader informed.
–  Leaders accept the results of delegation and must deal with
  those results.
     o What do we do with the results of delegation?
–  Say thank you.  Recognize the work within the organization.
–  Evaluate the results.  Evaluation – both positive and
  negative – are a vital part of personal growth.
–  A new challenge best rewards a successfully completed project
  or good performance.