Mastering 5 Levels of Delegation: The Key to Managerial Success

Mastering 5 Levels of Delegation: The Key to Managerial Success

Mastering 5 Levels of Delegation: The Key to Managerial Success

Effective delegation of work is the process of assigning a task to a member of the organization and letting them do it. Delegation should always be strategic and should not be seen as an additional burden. Managers delegate tasks to ensure that employees are given the freedom, flexibility, and resources they need to succeed in their roles. In this blog, we talk about the five levels of a delegation that every manager needs to know. We will also talk about the prevalent types of delegation that managers typically use in the workplace.

What is effective delegation in the workplace?

Effective delegation of power can differentiate between a successful and a failing organization. A manager delegates tasks and responsibilities to subordinates, who then perform the tasks with efficiency and effectiveness. Having delegated authority in your workplace can help you build strong relationships between employees and managers and foster teamwork. Following the principles of delegation and inculcating the essential delegation skills is to key to getting it right. Otherwise, there are many problems that can affect the quality of delegated tasks. Effective delegation can happen in many ways. Let us begin by exploring the five levels of a delegation that managers can follow –

What are the five levels of delegation?

Delegation of power is the act of giving authority and responsibility to another person. It is an important management skill but can also be challenging. Therefore, it is essential to understand the levels of delegation and the various ways of delegating power.

Level 1: Assess and Report

The initial levels of delegation give the employee the power to understand and assess the situation perfectly. They are permitted to collect information about the scenarios the team is dealing with. However, they cannot play an active role in decision-making. Their inputs are taken by the managers for preparing reports but may not be treated as recommendations. In this level of delegation, the manager is always aware of what is happening and checks in with their subordinates regularly. They provide feedback and guidance but need to be more hands-on with the work being done. The only con with this level of delegation is that the employee may feel that their efforts are not valued adequately if they cannot see them impacting the results in any manner whatsoever. Hence, feedback from managers remains critical at this stage. For example: In a software development project, a manager delegates the task of assessing the current status of a specific module to a software engineer. The engineer’s responsibility is to gather data, identify issues, and report on the module’s performance. However, the engineer does not have the authority to make decisions or changes to the module; their role is limited to data collection and reporting. The manager remains closely involved and provides guidance on what information to gather.

Level 2: Recommend

At the second level of delegation, the manager passes on some of the decision-making authority to their employee. The subordinate is now permitted to make recommendations but must still follow instructions from their managers if they want their recommendations accepted. This level of delegation is beneficial as it enhances creativity and productivity while increasing team member ownership. It also enables employees to take charge when faced with challenging situations or new challenges that they have not encountered before. The decision-making authority, however, still rests with the manager only. For example: The manager allows the software engineer to assess the module and recommend improvements. The engineer can suggest changes based on their assessment, such as optimizing code or implementing new features. However, the final decision on implementing these recommendations still rests with the manager. The manager values the engineer’s input but has the ultimate authority to approve or reject the proposed changes.

Level 3: Develop Action Plans

The third level of delegation takes authority a step further. Here, the employee can develop action plans and take specific steps toward achieving the team’s goal with prior approval from their managers. In some cases, this may even extend to making decisions within the guidelines their superiors have set. A manager continues to supervise minutely here. This level of delegation is beneficial as it allows employees to feel more ownership of their work and provides them with strong strategic planning skills, which are often lacking in novice employees. It also helps build trust between manager and employee, as each party can measure the other’s performance. However, this level of delegation can also be challenging to manage as it can lead to employees taking on too much responsibility and becoming overzealous in their attempts to achieve results. For example: In this level, the manager delegates the responsibility for assessing the module and developing action plans to address any issues. The software engineer makes recommendations and creates a detailed plan outlining how to improve the module. This plan includes timelines, resource allocation, and specific steps for implementation. However, the manager must review and approve the action plan before the engineer proceeds with execution. The manager remains closely involved in planning to ensure alignment with overall project goals.

Level 4: Make Decisions

The later levels of delegation are the ultimate goal of most organizations. Employees can make decisions independently with full authority and responsibility for the outcomes. In some cases, this may even extend to making changes or taking new initiatives not previously discussed or approved by their managers. This level of delegation can be a challenge for both manager and employee as it requires a high degree of trust and communication between the two parties. It also requires a clear vision and roadmap toward success which can often be challenging to develop in an environment where change is constantly occurring. Without features that make delegation easier, the manager might end up micromanaging their team. Hence, ensuring that you allow the employee to develop substantial task ownership is critical. For example: In the same software development project, the manager takes delegation further by allowing the software engineer to make real-time decisions about the module’s development. The engineer can adjust the coding approach, make design choices, and allocate tasks to other team members as needed to meet project goals. While the manager is available for guidance and consultation, they trust the engineer to make these decisions independently. The engineer can even propose changes to the project plan without seeking prior approval, but the manager retains the final authority.

Level 5: Complete Delegation

L5 is the ultimate delegation level and should only be given to employees who have proven their ability to handle full responsibility for their work. These employees should also be able to communicate effectively with their managers, ensuring that all aspects of the project are clearly understood. For L5 delegation to be successful, both manager and employee must share a common vision for the project and a clear understanding of team goals and objectives. It can also be helpful if managers provide clear feedback on progress so that the delegating employee can improve upon any deficiencies they may find. Even though the approach sounds like complete independence, the manager remains in touch and offers guidance and supervision as needed. The manager retains the final authority and responsibility regarding the task. For example: At the highest level of delegation, the manager fully entrusts the software engineer with the responsibility for the entire module. The engineer has the autonomy to define the module’s architecture, allocate resources, and make all decisions related to its development without constant oversight. While the manager is still available for support and guidance, they do not interfere in day-to-day decisions. The engineer fully owns the module and is accountable for its success. However, the manager retains ultimate responsibility for the project’s overall success and can step in if necessary. Through these five levels of delegation, we can then move on to understand the types of delegation we can find in workplaces around us. For example, managers may only sometimes stick to a particular level but collaborate on the features of multiple levels of delegation to create the system best suitable for their team.

What are the basic delegation types for every manager?

Now that we understand the various levels of delegation. We can move forward with the common delegation types that are used by managers in the workplace. Delegation is an essential part of every manager’s job. Understanding the different types of delegation of power and the benefits of each kind of delegation is vital to becoming a better manager.

Delegation of authority

Delegation of authority means handing over power and decision-making to someone else to free up the manager’s time. This type of delegation can be effective when a manager needs to focus on other tasks or doesn’t have the necessary skills or knowledge to take on a project themselves. While delegating authority, managers need to ensure that a few essential requirements are met:
  • Goals and outcomes leading to them are clearly defined
  • The employee should have clarity on their role and responsibility
  • Accountability is essential in the process

Delegation of responsibility

Delegation of responsibility means entrusting an employee with completing a specific task or project. In this type of delegation, the manager retains overall control and authority to ensure the goal is met. When delegating responsibilities, ensure that your employees are prepared with the hard and soft skills to do justice to the role.

Complete or partial delegation

Managers may either fully delegate the responsibility or only partially delegate it when they delegate a task or project. When delegating partially, managers must remember that delegation is never 100% complete and should be checked regularly. Partial delegation allows employees more ownership of their work and can increase team productivity. However, it can also confuse if the manager does not ensure clarity. Different levels of delegation can work well depending on the situation and team. For example, if an employee lacks the specific knowledge required for a task but has the skills needed for some parts of the task, the partial delegation could be effective.

General or specific delegation

General delegation is the most common type of delegation and involves delegating a task or project to an employee without specifying the level of detail or specifics. This type of delegation allows employees more freedom to get started with the task, but it can also lead to confusion. Employees may be delegated tasks under the whole department in the general delegation. On the other hand, the specific delegation specifies the detail that needs to be included for an employee to complete the task correctly. As a result, employees have more important details of their responsibilities.

Formal or informal delegation

The delegation that is carried out within the set structure of the organization is termed a formal delegation. The responsibilities are clearly defined as per the precedent. The employees, in general, are aware of the expectations held towards them by the managers. They are also formally obliged to carry out the task and ensure outcomes. On the other hand, informal delegation may happen at the behest of circumstances. For example, an employee can take up additional duties in their manager’s absence or assist their manager as a deadline is fast approaching. Often, as it lacks a formal contract, the obligation is optional but a function of the norms governing workplace behavior.


Delegation is a powerful management tool to use in the office environment. But it’s essential that you understand the basic levels of delegation, delegation types, and key processes first before embarking on the journey. Further, delegate work according to your team member’s level of expertise and ability to complete the task. Remember, delegation is an essential part of any manager’s routine. Therefore, you must delegate to accomplish as much as possible with a delegation!

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