November 3, 2011

The Spark.

The Spark: Empowering vs. Delegating
Welcome to The Spark - a tidbit of wisdom to stimulate ideas and help you transform your student organization. The Spark is a bi-weekly resource provided through the Center for Student Involvement which is sent to all registered officers through PantherSync.

Empowerment and delegation are often used interchangeably when discussing ways to involve members in the organization. However, they are two quite different concepts.

How delegation often plays out:
“Hey all, it’s time to plan for our speaker coming in February. We need to complete the contract, the food needs to be ordered, and the posters need to be made. Who wants to do what?”

We commonly utilize our organizational chart to determine our delegating:

“Sarah – you are in charge of operations, so you need to order the food. Mike – since you are PR chair, you can make the posters. I’ll do the contract.”

Delegation tends to be more managerial. It is often specific to the task or process being completed. The conversation may include expectations from the leader regarding where they see the project going or what the finished product might look like. It requires following up with those whom we’ve delegated tasks to ensure that progress is being made.

Let’s change it up:
“Hi Sheila. I know that you are still pretty new in the organization and don’t have a formal role yet, but I’ve heard from a few members that you are very creative and are majoring in graphic design. You may have noticed that one of the major needs of our group is the marketing initiatives. We think you would be the perfect person to take the lead on developing a new campaign. We will be here to provide whatever support and resources that you need, but we really want the campaign to be your vision. What do you think?”

Sounds different, right? Empowerment focuses on the individual and what they bring. Leaders discover the strengths in others and how they can be put into action. Empowerment is motivating. Members’ buy-in is greater if they feel they are a part of creating something, not just checking items off of the To Do list. Empowerment is about sharing power and responsibility, and recognizing that each member has something to contribute. It focuses on the bigger picture.

There is a place for both empowerment and delegation. Good leaders utilize both concepts, depending on the current needs of the organization. There will be times when a project just needs to get done, and the best thing to do is to delegate. At other times, we have the opportunity to empower and inspire. The key is differentiating the two and implementing them when appropriate.

Take the risk. We often avoid sharing responsibility for our organizations because it seems easier/faster/(fill in the blank) to do the work ourselves. Empowerment can be messy. But we may be missing a major opportunity to increase our organization’s success and to allow ourselves more time to focus on other areas of need.

Take a moment to consider:

How can we assist you with your organization? Contact the Center for Student Involvement to set up a consultation or customized training. To make a training request, visit and click on Organization Training to complete the Training Request for Registered Student Organization form. You can also access this form in PantherSync through the "Forms" tool. Trainings may also be requested by emailing or calling 414-229-5780.