Buffet and Bennis on Delegating


Mediocre leaders can’t or won’t delegate. Delegating may be the most unglamorous part of leadership.

I woke up this morning with three things on my mind, delegating an important role in the organization I lead, and two Warrens. They all go together.

Warren Buffet on delegation:

  1. Hire people and don’t tell them what to do.
  2. Let good people set their own standards and direction.
  3. Delegate almost to the point of abdication.

Buffets observations feel like a left shoe stuck on the right foot to many leaders and managers. Delegating the Buffet way only makes sense if:

  1. People possess character and ability. The reason you can’t delegate is you hired and kept incompetent people or you failed to develop their potential. If you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’ll find an ax in your own hand.
  2. Everyone shares unswerving alignment with values, mission, and vision.
  3. Information flows freely.

Always accentuate never minimize:

Foolish leaders begin the delegation process by saying stupid things like, “This should be easy for you.” Look for people who rise up to challenges rather than sinking into ease. Tap into their desire to make a difference not simply getting something done.

Warren Bennis wisely said, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.”

Hands on in the right way:

Never meddle. I never liked a meddling boss. I interpreted their involvement as lack of trust. I’ve learned, however, that meddling was usually about them, not me.

Stay involved but don’t meddle. Never withdraw; always fan flames. Find ways to encourage without meddling. Celebrate small wins, for example.


What have you learned about the challenges and success of delegating?