Delegative Leadership Style Advantages, Disadvantages and Characteristics

The delegative leadership style is one where the leader prefers to take a backseat to their team when making decisions. These leaders allow their direct reports to make the decisions that would normally be the responsibility of the leader.

That means a delegative leader often provides complete freedom within the workplace to make decisions. These leaders prefer to give resources and tools to their teams to get a job done, while providing their own expertise when asked for it. Workers with a leader using this style are expected to solve their own problems.

In a true delegative leadership role, the leader still takes responsibility for the actions and decisions taken by the group. The power of the decision might be with the direct reports, but the responsibility stays with the leader.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the delegative leadership style to consider.

List of the Advantages of the Delegative Leadership Style

1. This leadership style highlights the expertise of the team.
A delegative leader recognizes the skill set of each direct report. When their team is self-motivated, capable of independent work, and highly skilled, then this leader is able to create better results by letting each person take the reins of their own part of a project. For this to be a successful experience, each team member must be able to work with minimal guidance and have the knowledge to be able to work independently.

2. Delegative leaders know when to back away.
There are times when a leader may be the most inexperienced person on a team. In this situation, instead of trying to dictate what work needs to be done, the delegative leader can rely on the experience of their team to create results. Each team member tends to have their own area of expertise with a delegative leader at the help. The knowledge of each direct report then creates a better project with more quality than if the leader tried to do everything on their own.

3. It creates more workplace satisfaction.
Leaders practicing delegation tend to create a workplace where individual contributions are valued. This makes it so that team members feel like the work they do is valued. It inspires people to follow their passions and internal motivations to create good results. Workers are able to create their own environment, get set into routines that work for them, and find a unique approach that leads to higher levels of productivity.

4. Delegative leaders can use their own skills strategically.
In a true delegative environment, leaders using this style would be completely hands-off. In the modern application of this leadership style, however, the delegative leader applies their own knowledge and skills in a strategic way. They look for situations where their expertise helps the team move forward without stepping on the toes of anyone else. These leaders make themselves available whenever advice might be wanted. Instead of relying on rules or procedures, this leadership style relies on personal expertise to be the foundation of a good project.

List of the Disadvantages of the Delegative Leadership Style

1. This leadership style takes a background role on projects.
A delegative leader may take responsibility for the decisions being made, but they also tend to de-emphasize their role with their direct reports. Team members are expected to solve their own problems, which means there may be zero guidance offered from the leader. If the leader is not present either, then some team members may take it upon themselves to become a pseudo-leader, attempting to direct responsibilities when they have no business doing so.

2. Delegative leaders are unconcerned about cohesiveness.
Leaders who practice this style of leadership tend to be viewed as uninterested in the work being done. Some may see them as withdrawn, weak, or incompetent from the outside. Over time, this view can influence team members who report to the delegative leader, which can lead to discontent. Instead of focusing on the team environment, these leaders want their direct reports to focus on themselves and their skills. That is good for independent work, but not team-based work.

3. It shifts responsibility outcomes.
In the delegative leadership style, team members are allowed to make decisions for themselves without suffering the consequences of their choices. That has negative effects for every outcome. If the team member makes a mistake, they don’t need to worry about repercussions because the leader will take responsibility for what happened. If they find success, then the team leader gets credit for the decisions that were made. For the independent worker looking for recognition, that can be a disheartening experience.

4. Delegative leaders can hide from their responsibilities.
A delegative leader can hand off enough work that some managers can avoid their responsibilities altogether. They stop trying to motivate their own workers, staying focused on personal motivations instead. Instead of being involved with their teams, these leaders may refuse to interact with them at all, which reduces team harmony and can affect production levels.

5. It creates teams that are slow to react to change.
Delegative leaders excel in creating independent teams. That also means they do a good job of creating many different silos where work takes place. Because every worker is focused on their own skills and experience, the team may fail to adapt to changing conditions as rapidly as they should. The team leader may even find resistance when asking their direct reports to change because each person sees themselves as their own “leader” of sorts. Many delegative teams tend to be reactive instead of proactive, which can put them at a disadvantage in a workplace that is evolving new best practices.

6. Team members can take advantage of delegative leaders.
A delegative leader tends to rely on the self-motivation of each team member to create results. If someone on the team recognizes that their manager isn’t paying close attention to their work duties, they may try to take advantage of the situation. Workers might try to inflate their hours, take unauthorized time off, or pretend to be at work when they are really at home. Without some level of direct supervision, workers can do just about anything and get away with it, if they are so inclined.

The advantages and disadvantages of the delegative leadership style show that it can be beneficial in specific situations. When the team is highly motivated, with plenty of expertise, this leadership style can bring out the best in people. If those traits are not present, then it may bring out the worst in people.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.