7 Successful Entrepreneurs and How to Delegate Like Them

To run a truly successful business, great delegators know they can’t do it alone. You need to be more than just a one man team. But when you’re the one calling the shots, it can be hard relinquishing control. After all, your company is an extension of you.

Here are seven tactics that have helped some of the best leaders and businessmen, past and present, achieve success.

1. Andrew Carnegie, Founder of Carnegie Steel Company

The original delegator, the late Andrew Carnegie wasn’t shy about telling his friends they needed to work smarter, not harder.

Andrew Carnegie
Source: PBS

Once a friend told Carnegie that he got to work at 7 o’clock in the morning, to which Carnegie replied,

“You must be a lazy man if it takes you 10 hours to do a day’s work. What I do is get good men and I never give them orders. My directions do not go beyond suggestions…”

Carnegie knew not to micromanage. He simply made suggestions, and trusted his men would get the job done. In turn, he was able to become a self-made millionaire (billionaire in today’s dollars) and still have time for leisure.

Key Takeaway: Don’t micromanage.

2. Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Richard Branson credits his dyslexia for helping him develop a knack for delegation. He keeps it simple because he personally needs it simple. And with simplicity, it becomes easier to delegate.

Richard Branson
Source: Business Insider

Branson runs hundreds of companies, so delegation is a must. He doesn’t waste time on jargon or complex directions, and neither should you.

Key Takeaway: Simplify the process.

3. Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft

Bill Gates is the richest person on earth, with a net worth of $87.4 billion. How did he achieve that incredible wealth? Gates knows a thing or two about delegating. He’s learned one of the keys to successful delegation is picking the right people.

For Gates, that entails hiring people who possess a slightly different set of skills than him. He picks workers who will take his suggestions and come back with “Wait, have you tried doing it this way?” to produce an even better product.

Bill Gates
Source: Newstalk ZB

Picking individuals who can execute your vision is key to your success. You don’t have time to do all the legwork, so you need to hire those who can.

Key Takeaway: Hire the right people.

4. Colin Powell, Retired Four-Star General and former Secretary of State

Colin Powell learned how to delegate while serving as President Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor. One day while discussing a problem with Reagan, Powell noticed the late President was too busy focussing on squirrels running around the White House garden.

Powell realized Reagan trusted his judgment on how to solve the problem, so much so, that Reagan didn’t need to pay attention. Delegation requires trust in others, and Powell took that to heart.

Colin Powell
Source: Fire Brand Left

Later in Powell’s military career, he took over the Army Forces Command and was made chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. As the highest military position in the Department of Defense, Powell had to delegate to his Chiefs of Staff during Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in Iraq. During a time of war, you have to trust your staff will do the right thing, which Powell understood.

Key Takeaway: Trust your employees’ judgment (unless they give you reason not to).

5. Ronald Reagan, former President of the United States

As Colin Powell learned, President Ronald Reagan knew how to delegate. In fact, he’s often been referred to as “The Great Delegator.” So what made Reagan such a master of delegation? To get what he needed done, he simply asked his people — the ones he delegated authority to — to handle it.

Ronald Reagan
Source: AARP

If you want something done, ask specifically. For instance, don’t be vague and say, “I need the report by 4 p.m.” Be specific: “I need the fourth quarter numbers emailed to me by 4 p.m.”

Ask and you shall receive. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But you would be surprised by how many people fail to simply ask.

Key Takeaway: Specifically ask for what you need done.

6. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Remember this term the “two pizza rule.” If you can’t feed your team with two pizzas then your team is too large to manage. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos coined this term from personal experience.

Over the years Bezos has learned that delegating to large teams can cause miscommunication, and increase the chances of a project stalling. To avoid this, he sticks with small teams, delegating projects to individuals who he knows can get the job done.

By decreasing the pool of players down to a select few, Bezos feels he’s empowering his employees. They’ll have a better chance to be innovative and push ideas through, in contrast to larger teams where it takes longer to get everyone on the same page and bickering is prevalent.

Jeff Bezos
Source: GeekWire

Key Takeaway: Follow the “two pizza rule” and delegate to smaller teams.

7. Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett’s business track record is quite impressive. So what separates Buffett from other businessmen? What’s his delegation secret? A key component to Buffett’s success is knowing your strengths and capitalizing on them. And Buffett’s strength is keeping his emotions in check. By leaving emotion out of business, there’s only room for rational thought, which leads to objective decision making.

When Buffett goes to work, he leaves his emotions at the door. He sticks to the facts. And with a networth of $66.1 billion, it looks like he’s doing something right.

Warren Buffett
Source: Business Insider

Key Takeaway: Leave your emotions at the door.


Delegating isn’t easy, but as these seven leaders demonstrate, it can be done. To succeed you need to not micromanage, simplify the process, hire the right people, use small teams, trust your employees’ judgment, and ask for what you need done. And remember your strengths are your greatest asset, so use them.

When delegating is done correctly, the sky’s the limit on what you can achieve.