The Art of Leadership: Knowing What Not to Delegate

Effective leadership is often associated with the ability to delegate tasks efficiently. While delegation is a crucial skill, knowing what not to hand off is equally important. Strong leaders understand that some responsibilities must remain in their hands to maintain control, ensure quality, and drive the organization’s vision forward. Here’s why discerning what not to delegate is vital for strong leadership.

1. Vision and Strategy

The overarching vision and strategic direction of the company are core responsibilities that should stay with the leader. While team members can contribute ideas and execute plans, the leader must keep their finger on the pulse of the company’s long-term goals and strategies. Delegating these critical elements can dilute the company’s direction and lead to a loss of focus.

2. Key Relationships

Building and maintaining key relationships with clients, stakeholders, and partners is another area where leaders should remain hands-on. These relationships often hinge on trust and personal connections that cannot be easily transferred. By staying involved, leaders can ensure that these crucial connections are nurtured and that any issues are addressed promptly.

3. Crisis Management

When a crisis arises, it requires a level of leadership and decision-making that only the top leader can provide. Leaders must be prepared to step in and steer the organization through turbulent times, making critical decisions and providing clear direction. Delegating crisis management can lead to inconsistencies and a lack of cohesive strategy during high-pressure situations.

4. Company Culture

The culture of an organization is a direct reflection of its leadership. Leaders play a pivotal role in setting the tone, values, and behaviors that define the company culture. While HR and managers can help implement and maintain cultural initiatives, the leader must be the champion of the culture, embodying and reinforcing it daily.

5. Performance Reviews and Feedback for Top Talent

Providing feedback and conducting performance reviews for key team members, especially top talent, is a task that leaders should not delegate. These conversations are critical for setting expectations, recognizing achievements, and aligning personal goals with the company’s vision. Leaders need to stay engaged with their top performers to inspire, motivate, and retain them.

6. Sensitive Information and Decisions

Certain information and decisions are too sensitive to be handed off. These may include financial data, confidential business strategies, or personnel matters. Leaders must handle these areas directly to ensure discretion and make informed decisions that align with the organization’s best interests.

7. Employee Engagement

If a company’s talent strategy were a house, employee engagement would be like its foundation. Built onto this symbolic foundation would be the concrete, block, and stone – represented by chief leaders.

The way people feel about where they work, their jobs, and how they’re treated form the nuts and bolts of employee engagement. Research shows that dissatisfied talent perform more poorly. Unhappy staffers experience more sick days. And underutilized skills eventually find elsewhere to thrive.

It’s no surprise then that the costs of negative employee engagement are high. They can even outsize the business costs of employees themselves. Gallup reports that disengaged employees cost up to $550 billion in lost productivity per year in the U.S. On a macro level, this is a sobering figure. On a scaled-down, small-business level, the results can be caustic.

Because employee engagement is so deeply integral to the DNA of a business, leaders can’t afford to opt out of playing an active role in it. They can’t parse it out to department heads and leave it on autopilot. They shouldn’t assume that all managers understand and activate employee engagement in alignment with the vision. And leaders would be remiss to discount hands-on involvement by assuming that the workers alone should self-administer it.

8. The Strategic Plan

The strategic framework for an organization is usually plotted on a three-, five- or 10-year plan. And it may be governed by a board of directors or other stakeholders in partnership with the executive team. Still, just because there may be many players connected to this master plan, that doesn’t give leaders a reprieve from supreme responsibility in realizing it.

Typically, various department heads or functional leads are charged with executing segments of a broader strategic plan. There may be 10,000-foot goals related to technology or marketing, and 30,000-foot ones pertaining to business development, product design, or market penetration. Designated executive vice presidents, vice presidents, or managing directors may be assigned these objectives, which are distributed among and tactically pursued by their respective groups.

But the core face of organizational strategy is the chief leader, be it the CEO of a big business or the entrepreneur of a small startup. For this reason, they cannot simply sign off on it, hope for the best, and leave active monitoring and molding of it to the wind.

In a 2012 Washington Post article, Les Trachtman wrote: “Whether you’re the CEO of a global corporation, founder of a mom and pop business, or simply head of your own household, it’s absolutely critical to make time for thinking strategically and planning. Otherwise, you might be working day and night, and wake up one day to realize, perhaps painfully, that the business or life you set out to create is headed straight off a cliff.”

9. Mission and Vision

The mission and vision of an organization may be created by committee. But the business owner and chief leaders are the ambassadors of keeping it authentic and alive.

As children, many of us learned that a “Do as I say, not as I do” credo isn’t very convincing, and the same lesson applies for leadership in preserving the company’s philosophy and purpose. Mission and vision are ideals, and sometimes they speak to intangible concepts that business attempts to apply in practical, pragmatic ways.

Ideally, the vision and mission flow through the company culture. To give it deeper, more applicable roots, they may be integrated into the code of conduct. They are built into the performance management process. Mission and vision can be embedded into customer service, vendor relations, and community outreach practices.

Even so, “An effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision,” according to the late management thought leader Peter Drucker.

This calls for connecting the dots between the past, present, and future, so that organizational ethics, processes, and personality align. It requires stimulating the buy-in and belief that promotes the enterprise, internally and externally. Such a challenge cannot flow from the bottom up, or from the middle sideways; it must manifest from the top down.


Being a strong leader is about balance. While delegation is essential for efficiency and team development, knowing what not to delegate is equally important to maintain control, drive the company’s vision, and handle sensitive matters. By keeping a firm grip on these critical areas, leaders can ensure their organization stays on track and thrives.

Invest time in understanding which responsibilities are yours to keep and which can be shared. This discernment will help you lead more effectively, build stronger relationships, and foster a robust company culture. Remember, leadership isn’t just about what you delegate; it’s also about what you choose to hold on to.

As a leader, what do you hold close and understand you must own as the gatekeeper of your company? How do you sustain vision, strategic planning, and employee engagement, yet include others in advancing success? Share with us by leaving a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Lazar & Company offers expert-level options for organizations looking for bookkeeping, content marketing and administrative support. To learn more about our virtual solutions, go here.