Creative LeadershipCreativity

Don’t Become the Single Point of Failure

One of the most important – and difficult – tasks you’ll ever learn as a leader is to delegate. You know how to do a task, and you can probably do it better and faster than others, so the natural tendency is to just do the job yourself and get it over with. But when you’re not delegating and training others to assist you, everything rests on your shoulders, and you’re setting yourself up to become the single point of failure in your organization.

If you’re the only one that’s doing a job, when you’re not there, a ball will eventually get dropped. You may think that doing it all yourself is the best way to keep job security, but truthfully, it’s the opposite. When upper leadership realizes that your absence means mistakes will happen, you become chained to your job.

That’s a big reason so many people burn out. After awhile, that stress takes over, and you eventually crumble under the pressure. You can’t even take vacations.

Learn to delegate. Sure people will make mistakes. Sure it will be awhile before they can do it as well as you. But without training those around you, you’re setting yourself up as the single point of failure. Your patience while you teach others is far better than your total failure because you didn’t.

Have you learned that lesson yet?

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  1. A lot of the people whom I have met, especially in churches, are afraid of delegating to, and training others to do their jobs. They fear being replaced by someone else. Something which my dad has told me many times over the years is “If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted”, something I think the “single points of failure” need to hear.

  2. Great post Phil, the experience is a step further on.

    It isn’t not wanting to delegate, I gladly handball the jobs out to the right creative talent, but rather, I have a rapidly growing creative comms team who all report to me and the I am becoming the bottle neck because I can’t pump out the responses in a time efficient way! I know the solution is to put some team leaders in there with the necessary experience but in a not for profit its harder said than done!

    1. That’s a good perspective Steven.  It needs to work all the way up the chain of command because bottlenecks do happen, and they choke the life out of any organization.

  3. I so have struggled with this as leader…so easy to think “aw, it’s just easier to get it done myself!” Your post is so true though, thanks for the reminder

  4. I did what John Maxwell teaches when I once spearheaded a ministry in a church some years ago: recognize talent around you, recruit, cast vision, delegate, set them free to make mistakes and learn. Once you build a competent team around you, the project, ministry or organization will continue to stand if and when you are not there. All continues on without missing a beat. Once I had employed this method and all was working like a well oiled machine, I was promoted. I handed the baton to the one person I invested in the most, and he is still successfully leading that ministry 7 years later …. and to heights I never could have taken it to. Learning to let go and letting others be a part of your work or vision is a win-win situation for all involved, including the organization.  Great advice Phil!

  5. I’m in a unique position of being the only one who knows how to do my job. I’m concerned for the very reasons you explain above. Fortunately, leadership is aware of the potential for problems and is working to cross train various team members so we can support each other.

    I like the idea of a “single point of failure”. I think that phrase is powerful and will use it as discussions move forward.

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