Explain Delegation its Characteristics and its Types

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Delegation can be described as an administrative process under which things are made to be done by others and for this purpose; responsibility is also given to them. For example, the board of directors takes all the significant decisions in an organization. The execution of these decisions is given to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the organization. The chief executive assigns particular tasks to the managers of different departments and in turn these managers delegate the authority to complete the task to their subordinates. In this way, all the superiors in an organization delegate authority to their subordinates in the organization so that a particular task may be completed. This process goes on to the level where the employees perform the actual task. The person who has been given the responsibility to get a particular task completed is also provided the required authority so that the person may get the task completed.

A limit is present to the extent to which the subordinates can be supervised by a person. When the number of subordinates increases beyond this point, then the person has to delegate his authority to other persons who have to perform the task of supervision for such a person. Therefore the job of a manager is not evaluated from the work that is actually performed by such a manager on his own but on the basis of the work that the manager has got done from his subordinates. Therefore, the manager assigns duties and authority to the subordinates and makes sure that the desired organizational goals are achieved by the subordinates.

Characteristics of Delegation:
Delegation can be described as the assignment of authority to subordinates in a particular area and also to make them responsible for the results. In this context, there are the following characteristics of delegation:-

Delegation is said to have taken place when some of the powers are granted by a manager to the subordinates.

Delegation can take place only when the person who is going to delegate the authority himself has the authority. For example, the manager who wants to delegate, should have the authority himself.

In case of delegation, only a part of authority is dedicated to the subordinates.

A manager who is going to delegate authority can enhance, reduce or take it back. In this regard, the manager exercises full control on the activities of the subordinates even after the authority has been delegated to them.


Only authority can be delegated and responsibility cannot be delegated. Therefore a manager cannot abdicate his or her responsibility by delegating authority to the subordinates.

Delegation, Essential Elements: there are three following essential elements that are involved in delegation. These are:-

Assignment of responsibility: In case of delegation of authority, the first step is to assign the work or a particular duty to be subordinate or in other words to delegate the authority. In this case, the superior tells the subordinates that a particular task has to be performed in a given period. This involves providing a description of the role that has been assigned to the subordinate. Similarly, the duties in context of the tasks that have to be performed, amount to the basis of the process of delegation.

Grant of authority: the next element in delegation is the grant of authority. In this case, the person delegating authority grants authority to the subordinates so that they can complete the assigned task. On the other end, delegating responsibility with authority is meaningless. The task can be completed by the subordinate only when the subordinate has the authority that is needed for completing the task. Authority is derived from responsibility or in other words it is the power to give order, delegated from a superior which allows the subordinate to discharge the responsibility given to the subordinate. It can be transferred by the superior for the purpose of enabling the subordinate to properly complete the task that has been assigned to the subordinate. However a balance is required between authority and responsibility. Sufficient authority should be delegated by the superior so that the assigned task can be completed properly.

Creation of accountability: In this context, accountability can be described as the obligation imposed on the subordinate to perform the duty that has been assigned to him. As a result of delegation of authority, an obligation is created on the part of the subordinate to complete the task that has been assigned to him. Therefore when a particular task is assigned to subordinate and authority is also delegated to the subordinate for completing the task, a by-product of this process is accountability. The authority is transferred so that the subordinate may complete a particular task as desired. This means that the subordinate has to make sure that the assigned task is completed properly. At this point it is worth mentioning that while authority flows downwards, accountability flows upward. They downward flow of authority should match with the upward flow of accountability at each level of hierarchy of the management. Similarly, I subordinate should only be accountable towards one superior. As a result of this single accountability, work and discipline improve in the organization.


Principles of Delegation
There are a number of principles that are related with delegation. These are described as follows:-

Principle of functional definition: according to this principle, the similar or related activities need to be grouped together, in accordance with the enterprise function. When the definition of a position is clear, in such a case, the delegation of authority also becomes simple. It has been said in this regard that the more a department or position as clear definitions for the expected results, the activities that need to be undertaken, the authority delegated and the authority and information relationships with other positions understood, it is more likely that the individuals who are responsible, can contribute in achieving the objectives of the organization.

It is considerably difficult to define a job and the authority that is needed for completing the job. In case a superior is not clear regarding the results that are expected, then it becomes much more difficult. It should be clear who is going to do which task so that the right amount of authority can be delegated to such a person. On the other hand if there is dual subordination, it may cause conflicts, a division in the loyalty of the subordinates and a lack of personal responsibility regarding the results.

Principle of unity of command: According to the basic principle of management, there should be unity of command. According to this principle, as subordinate should be required to report only to a single superior. In this way, a sense of personal responsibility is created. Even if it is possible that the subordinate may receive orders from more than one superiors and report to all of them but such a situation may result in difficulties and problems. It is essential that the obligation should be personal and the delegation of authority by more than one person may result in conflicts in authority as well as responsibility. Therefore the principle of unity of command helps in the classification of the relationship between authority and responsibility.

The principle of delegation by expected results: It is important that the delegation of authority needs to be based on the results that are expected from it. Therefore the authority should be adequate for the purpose of achieving the desired results. In case, insufficient authority has been delegated, then the desired results may not be achieved. Consequently, a balance needs to be maintained between the results that are expected and the authority that is required for achieving these results.

Absoluteness of a responsibility: After a subordinate has accepted the work, the responsibility of such a subordinate towards the superior is absolute. The responsibility of the superior however does not decrease after the authority has been delegated to a subordinate. It is possible that authority may be delegated by a person but it is not possible to delegate responsibility. Therefore, such a person will remain accountable for the work even if the task has been delegated to a subordinate. Hence, the responsibility of the superior and the subordinate is absolute.

Parity of authority and responsibility: As the authority is the right to complete the assignment and the responsibility is the obligation to complete it, a balance needs to be maintained between the two. Responsibility should have logical relationship with the authority that has been delegated to the subordinate. Similarly, great burden should not be placed on the subordinate with high-performance responsibility by delegating adequate authority. In some cases, the authority is delegated but the person concerned is not held responsible for the proper use of the authority. Such a case involves poor management practices. Therefore it is essential to maintain parity between the authority delegated and the responsibility in order to achieve efficiency in the organization.

Authority level principle: The principle provides that the decision-making should remain at the level at which the authority has been delegated. Authority is delegated by the managers to their subordinates but in many cases they are tempted to make decisions on behalf of the subordinates. Therefore, it is important that the managers allow the subordinate to take their own decisions according to the authority that has been provided to them. The delegation of authority can prove to be effective only if such delegation is clear and understandable for the subordinates. Therefore, the subordinates should be clearly aware of the area of their decision-making and they should not refer these matters to their superiors. In this way, the principle of authority level provides that the maintenance of indent the delegation needs that the decision within the authority should be made by the individuals and they should not be referred to their superiors in the organization.


The Scalar Principle: this principle is related with the chain of direct authority relationships from the superiors in an organization to their subordinates. The ultimate authority in the organization should rest somewhere. The subordinates should be aware of the person to whom the matter should be referred if it is beyond the authority provided to them. Therefore if the line of authority from the top manager to the subordinates is clear, the decision-making in the organization will become more responsible.

This article has been written by KJ Singh a MBA Graduate from a prestigious Business School In India
Article Published:March 13, 2017
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