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Decentralized Command or Lazy Designation? pages 194-196

Updated: Oct 29

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 2. Leadership Skills, E. Decentralized Command or Lazy Designation?, (pages 194-196)


E. Decentralized Command or Lazy Designation?

“If a leader wants to be in charge of everything, then he or she should try to be in charge of nothing.” Decentralized command shifts tasks and influences down to the people who are most directly involved with them. When the leader can delegate all their actions, they can look up and out, and not down. A leader can not successfully lead if they are consistently involved with tasks that could be dealt with by a subordinate. That is what is referred to as looking down. Looking up and out is a description of visionary leadership. However, a decentralized command structure can be viewed by some as the boss simply being lazy. While this can be a genuine problem, the remedy is straightforward. If you have a feeling that your subordinates are seeing you as lazy, take charge of the next challenging mission, and do a great job. “Set the example. Lead from the front”. This remedy also works for those subordinates that complain about assignments. When that occurs, take over the assignment. It will not take long for those complaining to see that their work is replaceable, as well as they are also. Lastly, to avoid the lazy designation, when the opportunity presents itself, take on the harshest of jobs. Don’t be afraid to get your hand dirty. While you should not dedicate your time as the leader in doing these types of tasks consistently, your willingness to do them will only go to build respect from your teammates.


While I have always viewed myself as a hands-on leader, I am aware that some might not share this view. When I was an Assistant Superintendent, I chose to spend one day each year working alongside a staff member in each of our departments, Food Services, Transportation, Custodial, Maintenance, and Technology. I chose these departments because my typical responsibilities did not require me to interact with them consistently. After contacting my department heads about my plan, they were still confused as to what my part was to be. Initially, they had me just observing the work. I responded that I wanted to do the job, whatever job they wanted me to do, for a day. So, I changed out of my suit and into whatever was appropriate for the job. I washed dishes and cleaned tables in the cafeteria. I was on the roof troubleshooting HVAC units with the maintenance department. I responded to technology requests. I rode the busses on both the AM and PM runs. No, they didn’t let me drive. I even scrubbed some toilets. Each job had its own set of unique requirements. Cafeteria and custodial workers had the most physically demanding jobs. The technology and maintenance workers needed both technical and troubleshooting skills. Transportation, the bus drivers, had the most patience while still maneuvering their vehicles on roads not designed for them. While I learned a tremendous amount about jobs I thought I understood, I also earned the respect of those departments. It opened up lines of communication with both the department head and their staff members. I was even able to take care of some problems that I was told would always get overlooked. The work was hard and it did take away from my responsibilities. However, what I gained far outweighed any issues arising from doing it. If you want to lead from the front, you must fully understand the view from the rear.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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