February 14, 2024
Delegation is hard! It’s not easy to release power and allow others to do what you do well. Yet delegation is an essential part of effective leadership. Elijah illustrates how secure leaders are able to release power to their followers.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not” (2 Kings 2:9-10, NIV).
Elijah had mentored Elisha for over 5 years and at the time of this exchange they both knew that Elijah would soon be gone. Their final conversation reveals how Elijah was able to delegate because he was a secure leader.
Secure leaders delegate because they focus on others.
Elijah’s question to Elisha is profound, “What can I do for you before I am taken from you?” Elijah was a great prophet and had an entire school of prophets that recognized his authority and leadership. He had specifically called Elisha to assist him in his work and to serve him. (see 1 Kings 19:19-21) He had every reason to focus on himself at the time of his departure, but instead his focus was on Elisha! He was secure enough to realize that the world did not revolve around him, there were others that he was called to serve. Insecure leaders lack confidence in who they are and their authority. They see others as a means to accomplish tasks that will accomplish their agenda. These leaders ask, “What can you do for me?” Serving leaders ask, “What can I do for you?” Serving leaders focus on others.
Secure leaders delegate because they focus on the achievements of others.
Elisha’s request was “a double portion of your spirit.” He wanted to not only replicate Elijah’s life and mission, but to double it! Elijah acknowledged that this was “a difficult thing” and was not ultimately his choice to determine how God would use Elisha. But he was not threatened by the thought of his follower doing more than he had done! He was secure in his calling and role and knew that nothing Elisha would accomplish would make himself less. He was able to focus on and celebrate the success of others. Insecure leaders focus on their own achievements, not those of others. They see gifted followers as a threat to their own role and power. But serving leaders are secure and celebrate the accomplishments of others. They let go of their own pride and ego. Their desire is to see others succeed and they focus on the achievements of others instead of their own.
Secure leaders delegate because they focus on succession.
Elijah knew he would soon be gone. But instead of seeing his departure as an event to be mourned he saw it as an opportunity to empower Elisha. He was secure enough to realize that the work would continue and flourish after his departure. Insecure leaders can’t imagine a world in which they are not in charge, doing what they do well and love to do. They don’t think of preparing others to carry on after them. They spend their time focused on accomplishing as much as they can to prove their value. But secure leaders begin a role with the end in mind, the day that they will no longer be in that role. Their work is to prepare others to carry on the work and they serve by focusing on succession. Serving leaders recognize that the true measure of their leadership lies in what happens after they are gone.
For further reflection and discussion:
- In what areas do I struggle to release power to others? What does this say about the condition of my heart and my own security or lack of security?
- How often do I ask those who serve me “How can I serve you?” How does this change my approach to leadership? Who is someone on my team that I can ask this question in the next few days?
- How do I celebrate the achievements of others on my team? Who has done something recently that I can acknowledge publicly?
- In what ways have I prepared others for the time that I will no longer be in my current role? What additional steps can I take to better prepare for succession?
Until next time, yours on the journey,
In the next issue, we’ll look at how secure leaders embrace differences.
Special Note: Let’s Celebrate!
The very first edition of this eZine was published 15 years ago, in Feb. 2009! I’m honored and humbled to celebrate this milestone with serving leaders like you. To celebrate I’d love to share with you a free pdf copy of “Signposts for the Journey: Volume 3: Reflections of a Servant Leader on Daniel, Paul, Trust, Timing, Temptation and More…” This book is a compilation of 52 Issues, Click here to download your copy. And if you want to take a peek at the very first issue “Whips and Washbasins” here it is. (Interestingly I mentioned insecurity in that issue as well!)