Pass the Buck

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.

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6 thoughts on “Pass the Buck

  1. And then once again the challenge shows up in the New Testament Acts 6:1-7. The apostles need to deal with setting priorities. We recognize there is a huge need, a major operational issue, but….

    WHAT is our calling? WHERE are we most effective?

    WHO are we going to be “passing the buck” to ? The buck is going to pass but whoever gets it must do a better job than we would do (mentoring included).

    We are tempted to think, we can do everything or we must do everything, and our way of doing it is the best. Much joy comes with opening learn and growth opportunities for others, its the best succession plan.

  2. Smarty pants?!? Who, me??

    The idea that we’re growing our people by delegating is MUCH more appealing than the guilt that I sometimes feel when piling stuff on my team. Great change of perspective.

    • I’m good for a smart comment every once and a while. Definitely depends on what you’re piling on though. Sure they need to do some of the less glorious tasks but if you can give them things to do that grows them in areas of passion then, it balances itself out.

      And yes, you’re a smarty pants…kind of brilliant actually.

  3. Good thoughts, Patrick. It’s definitely not easy to delegate when you like to take on big loads of responsibility (I’m guilty of it, too). Often times, we are in situations where doing something ourselves will ensure that it will get done right. However, when you have trustworthy people who are ready and willing to get work passed to them, you have to let that work go.

    What you don’t want to do is delegate then never follow up. Don’t micromanage, but make sure what you delegate is actually getting done, and getting done the way it needs to be done.

  4. Pingback: Care For Those You Lead

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