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All organisations are structured on the basis of the principle of hierarchy which binds different levels and units of the organisation with a continuous chain of authority. In a small scale organisation, the head may be able to run the administration effectively by keeping all the powers with himself, but this may not be possible in the case of a large scale establishment like that of Indian Civil Services.  The need of delegation is greatly felt with the growth of any organization. Delegation generally means conferment of authority by a superior to a subordinate for the accomplishment of an assigned mission or project. 

Author: Air Commodore Ullatil Manoj                                                                                        



Merriam Websters dictionary describes the origin of the word ‘delegation’ tracing it back to 1627 where the word legatus in Latin means an “ambassador,” “deputy,” or “provincial governor”. That word came from the verb legare, which means “to appoint as one’s representative”. The term eventually made its way into English as legate: an official representative of the Pope. Later, de-in delegate came from the Latin prefix meaning “away from oneself”.  Delegate entered English a few centuries after legate. The verb delegate meant “to trust someone with (a job, duty, etc.)”.  The concept of delegation came to the fore during World War I as a necessity by battle field commanders and since then has gradually been widely accepted in private & public sector enterprises.


Louis A. Allen says, delegation is the process where a administrator divides the work assigned to him with others so that it permits him to perform that part which only he can perform effectively and the others help him with what remains.  Delegation is therefore about entrusting a subordinate to do parts of your job, and to accomplish them successfully. For delegation to be effective, the civil servants ought to delegate responsibility with the appropriate level of autonomy so that others in the administration are free to innovate and take the lead.  By delegating suitably, administrators can teach employees new skills and expertise to help them be more productive and instill a sense of self-reliance, improve morale and motivation. To accomplish this administrators must assess the staff's current abilities, their potential to accept, complete assignments through established guidelines and limitations of time. All these would require management functions like planning, organizing, coordinating, motivating, communicating, monitoring, feedback, investment of time, training and equipment. Richard Branson founder of Virgin Group while speaking about delegation had said “it is the simple ability of leaders to let go and if one desires to grow as leaders then one needs to learn to delegate”.  Therefore, one is required to know the real meaning of what is ‘Delegation’, why to Delegate and How to delegate before becoming successful administrators. 

 When, out of the total authority, held by a superior, a portion thereof is passed on by the superior to a subordinate to enable him to perform some job on behalf of the superior, it is known as delegation of authority. We can therefore draw the following salient features on delegation of authority.

(a) No administrator can delegate his entire authority to a subordinate. He can pass on only a portion of his authority to the subordinate. For example, in the case of Indian Administration, the Prime Minister has virtually all the administrative powers of managing the country and its economy. However, the Prime Minister delegates partial responsibility with commensurate authority to a council of ministers in the cabinet to discharge different functions.  Having said this, the Prime Minister does not delegate his complete authority to his council of ministers / cabinet. 

(b)No administrator can give that authority to a subordinate, which the former himself does not possess. For example, the Prime Minister cannot delegate authority which is actually vested with the President of India.

(c)The idea behind delegation of authority is that of representation of the superior by the subordinate. In other words the subordinate, after delegation of authority by the superior, is supposed to behave and act in a manner, in which the superior, himself, would have behaved and acted.

Delegation of authority is made by a superior to a subordinate, only for organisational purposes and not for the fulfillment of the personal purposes of the superior. In the latter case, delegation of authority would amount to a misuse of authority by the superior.

Delegation of authority does not imply a reduction in the power of the superior. It is something like the captain of a passenger aircraft who may permit his first officer / co-pilot to fly the aircraft but continues to remain the captain of the aircraft with complete responsibility towards safety of all souls.  Further, the captain may at his discretion take back controls from the first officer when he so desires (normally in the interest of safety). 

The entire process of delegation of authority entails the following steps.

(a)        Determine the results expected of the subordinate. 
(b)        Assign duties/tasks /job to the subordinate.  After ascertaining the competence of the subordinate, duties or tasks or job is assigned to him.
(c)        Delegate authority to the subordinate to enable the subordinate perform the assigned work effectively and without interruption.
(d)        Fix responsibility on the subordinate.  Delegation of authority would remain not only incomplete but also ineffective, unless and until, the subordinate to whom authority is delegated is made answerable to the superior.

While we have discussed what and how to delegate. It is important for us to assimilate why it is important to delegate.

(a)        Two is better than one.  By not delegating, you place a heavy burden on yourself. You can become so overwhelmed that your functioning and your health suffer. Delegating routine work will relieve some of your stress and give you more time to do your job.

  1. Develop your skills as a manager. By delegating, you give yourself more time to work on your skills and capacities. This will help you achieve your goals in less time and set up higher goals to reach.
  2. Increasing internal communication. Hierarchy between a superior and subordinates in a team will diminish by delegating. It would make communication easier within the team and facilitate bonding. 

Collective success. In delegation, when goals are accomplished, the success will be the shared by the whole team. A collective success will make the person feel as an entity with the company, and it will empower the team to look forward for many more success and challenge to break eventually leading to collective organizational success.

 Delegate to build an efficient team. By delegating, you give your team more confidence, making them feel important and letting them show what they are capable of. Delegation helps staff members to be more engaged as they feel that their managers trusted them to succeed at the delegated tasks. They feel the urge to learn more and to work on their skills as they are exposed to more challenges.

Preserving good skilled people in your team. Effective delegation empowers subordinates to make decisions and to feel important. They will also feel contented, which will increase their loyalty and lower the risk that they will start looking for opportunities outside the administration.

Delegate to Save time. Actually, time has always been an invaluable resource. Effective delegation decreases delays in achieving tasks. An investment in the effective delegation process needs to be seen as a timely investment in HR that eventually brings in a healthy administration.


JC Penny said that ‘the surest way for a leader to kill himself is to refuse to learn how and when and to whom to delegate work’. Delegation aids efficiency and effectiveness. The possible barriers in administration can be mitigated by ensuring delegation.  The merits of delegation outweigh its possible demerits. Administration should always delegate tasks and authority to derive maximum gains.



  1. Alhalabi, R. (2021, January 17). 7 Top Reasons to Delegate in your Workplace. The Online Learning Platform. Accessed October 26, 2021, from
  2. Barr, E. (2021, June 7). Delegation of Authority: A Step-by-Step Guide. SpriggHR. Accessed October 26, 2021, from
  3. Davis, B. (2021, June 1). What is an example of delegation? – MVOrganizing. Accessed October 26, 2021, from
  4. How to Delegate. (2018, October 3). [Video]. YouTube.
  5. Talathi, R. (2015, November 30). Delegation of Authority: Concept, Nature, Process and Principles. Your Article Library. Accessed October 26, 2021, from




Dr V N Alok

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