What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “pass the buck?”
My first thought is negative, as in, avoiding responsibility. However, after reading Exodus 18:13-27 recently, my thoughts about “passing the buck” began to change.
Here is a little background. Many are familiar with Moses and him leading the Israelites out of Egypt. There were stone tablets called the Ten Commandments and there was the parting of the Red Sea. I’m hoping you’re following. Well, Moses spent a lot of time with a nation of people and as luck would have it, he was appointed by God as their leader. As a leader, he most likely felt obligated to hear and resolve arguments. The problem was, he was the only one doing this. It says in Exodus 18:14 that everyone stood in line “from morning till evening” waiting for Moses to settle their dispute. Probably not a good use of his time.
Enter the wise father-in-law, Jethro who offered him this advice (Exodus 18:19-22)
Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.
In essence, Jethro is telling him to “pass the buck.” As leaders, we can’t do it all. This is one of the lessons that I’m currently learning in some of the things I’m involved in today. Early on in my career, I was focused on doing everything. I had to. That was my job. As I now have more responsibility, I need to learn to let go and trust in the abilities of those around me who are tasked with the responsibilities of helping me get things done. As Jethro tells Moses, “They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.”
The other benefit of delegating is it shows your leadership by allowing others to learn by doing. It grows them personally and professionally. As leaders, it is important for us to nurture and teach those around us. It allows us to focus on the bigger picture, strategy and end results (a certain smarty pants from Chicago recently wrote about this).
As you lead, are you delegating? If not, you may want to consider passing the buck. Your move.