Using a Delegating Leadership Style to Move Mountains


A delegating leadership style implies a hands-off approach in which the leader delegates authority and entrusts others with responsibility.

This style acknowledges that employees are capable of making decisions independently.

If you want to increase your output exponentially, consider what Lieutenant General (LTG) William “Gus” Pagonis, the director of Logistics, accomplished within the first 30 days of Operation Desert Shield.

He was tasked to move the equivalent of a major city’s worth of people and all of their belongings to Saudi Arabia. In the next 60 days, a feat he would have to repeat a half-dozen times.

Delegating Leadership Style

Delegating Authority


In charge of deploying U.S. Forces and equipment, LTG Pagonis is widely recognized for accomplishing a number of logistical achievements throughout Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

In his book, Moving Mountains, Pagonis illustrates why delegating authority is so important:

“… the numbers were staggering and unprecedented: 550,000 troops mobilized in record time, 7 million tons of supplies shipped, 122 million meals served, 12,575 aircraft processed, 32,000 tons of mail delivered, and then, half a million soldiers and their equipment brought home.”

— Book Cover, Moving Mountains

Before he got started, LTG Pagonis was asked what it would take to succeed. His reply was that he needed to have a few experts on his team, people who had worked with him before that understood his delegating leadership style.

With people knowledgeable in several key areas, he was able to share his vision and make things happen. Because he delegated authority, his leadership team was able to take the initiative and exploit a number of potential opportunities that came along, without having to check with the boss every step of the way.

By entrusting them with these responsibilities, LTG Pagonis’ enabled his team to achieve remarkable feats despite challenging tasks, such as communicating effectively with other cultures.

Lyft Realizes Need for Delegating Authority

Last year, a Bloomberg Businessweek article revealed that a delegating authority contributed to Uber’s 90% share in New York City’s ride-hailing market, compared to Lyft’s 7%.

In “Lyft Tries to Think More Locally,”  Eric Newcomer and Brad Stone state:

“In terms of management, one of the biggest differences is delegation. Uber has hundreds of local managers operating as mini-CEOs in each city where it operates.”

Lyft had resisted a decentralized model for years, choosing to operate with 10 city managers across 65 markets compared to Uber’s hundreds. The strategy saved Lyft money, but prevented them from appreciating each city’s unique market.

This caused Lyft to rethink its strategy of having only 10 city managers, nine from big city markets and another who is responsible for 40 smaller cities, and shift to a new strategy where they delegated authority to local managers.

All of this came from the intense competition with Uber, in Lyft’s efforts to empower local managers to reduce wait times, ensure there were enough cars to serve passengers, or address problems unique to their areas.


The Importance of Delegation

In Moving Mountains, LTG Pagonis credits the military staff system for providing people who understood their roles and responsibilities. He recognized that they would not have performed so ably if his leadership team did not share the same core leadership values.

In the end, it was sharing core leadership values that led to common understanding, which enabled their incredible success.

Just as Lyft realized that delegating authority is essential to remain competitive, every military leader learns these fundamentals early on. In my case, almost missing my sister’s wedding taught me the importance of delegation.

For more information on core leadership values, check out my book, Unleash Your Values, or download chapter 1 to preview:

Lead & Succeed
Lead & Succeed

Your leadership success depends upon your ability to distinguish between power vs authority, authority vs responsibility, and managing vs leading.