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How to Delegate Responsibility to Anyone with the Decision Tree of Effective Leadership

When you think of delegation and getting other people to do tasks without you watching their every move, do you only think of leadership in business? Book after book has been written on delegation at work. Your ability to delegate is a powerful skill to learn to help with raising children, working with service staff like cleaners, and everyday decision-making.

This article is beyond business to help you empower anybody to make decisions on their own while not subjecting anyone to the pain of a control freak. You learn how to avoid turning yourself into a cantankerous, controlling individual while still getting things done.

Delegation is defined as assigning responsibility of a decision or action to someone. It allows you to get more done in less time than if you tried to do the activity yourself. You must learn this skill because time disallows you to do what you want done.

Too frequently we fail to say “no” to the flood of requests which overwhelm. Effective decision-making skills given to you in the decision tree of leadership allows you to establish responsibility in people without you controlling them.

The ability to create self-reliance in people is one of the most empowering skills you can develop. You bring out the best in people, they feel powerful, and they do not feel burdened by control. Whenever you transfer responsibility and other duties under safe circumstances that lead to feelings of importance in people, you increase your personal magnetism and make people like you. With that said, let’s move onto describing the decision tree of leadership.

4 Parts of The Decision Tree of Leadership – A Model Used by Great Leaders

Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments. They do not determine the future; they are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future.Peter Drucker

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since reading Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s The New Psycho-cybernetics and Michael Hall’s Mind-lines, I realize how powerful metaphors are to learn and implement a skill. To overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed, Maxwell Maltz provides a powerful metaphor and visualization of an hourglass. No matter how much sand is in the timer, the sand only pours through the funnel grain by grain. One by one gets things done.

When we create a metaphor that is similar to a problem, we draw associations and learn something new from old information.

When we create a metaphor that is similar to a problem, we draw associations and learn something new from old information. It is abductive thinking, a creative process whereby “what could be” generates new ideas. Symbols are used to indirectly mean something else. What this means for you in layman’s terms is your knowledge about a tree has the potential to help you better empower people, free up your time, and get them to like you!

Think of a simple tree. Each day decisions are made to keep it green and healthy. For the purpose of this metaphor, we categorize a tree into four parts: 1) roots, 2) trunk, 3) branches, and 4) leafs. From the ground upwards, we have:

Roots: Root decisions have the most potential to hurt an individual, group, or organization. They are made from a lot of input and consultation with others. Once an outcome is determined to be the best, the person responsible makes the root decision. Each person is kept up-to-date with the results of the decision because the outcome affects all.

Trunk: Follows the root of the tree’s trunk. Trunk decisions have the potential to hurt an individual, group, or organization like root decisions, though to a lesser extent. A trunk decision can take into account other people’s input, but the ultimate decision is made by the person in charge. Who is in charge depends on who can initiate or omit the action. A parent can be in charge, but a trunk decision for the teen in deciding to find a job is made by their teenager. The outcome of trunk decisions should be reported immediately.

Branches:The main difference between branch decisions have with trunk decisions is the timeliness of the decision. A branch decision does not have to be reported immediately once the decision is made. The person making the decision can take action immediately without other people’s suggestions. A teen deciding to get a job is a trunk decision, not a branch decision, because the teen is the one who acts on the decision while his or her parents are influenced by the decision.

Leafs: Leaf decisions are clear and simple. Sometimes the person has faced and solved similar problems in the past. A leaf decision is the outer-most and highest level of decision-making a person can achieve. It involves making a decision and acting on it without consulting anyone. Unlike other parts of the tree that require the input of others, leaf decisions are pure independence. The person who makes the leaf decision does not notify someone what has been done.

What Happens When the Roots Die?

The foundation of a tree is its roots. Without its roots a tree quickly dies. After roots is the tree’s trunk. Tree trunks are important in maintaining the tree’s strength. Next, the trunk leads to branches. The branches of a tree shape how it looks. They need to be maintained. Lastly, leafs grow from branches. Should a leaf or branch die, the whole tree does not suffer. If the roots or trunk of the tree sustain serious injury, the livelihood of the tree is jeopardized.

In decision-making terms, a leaf decision does not mean it is less important than a trunk decision. Rather, it explains the ramifications of the decision. Leafs can die while the whole tree lives. A tree dies when its roots die. This is the most important metaphor to understand in the model. Your family should not suffer because you made a leaf decision that is actually a root decision, like buying your next house, on behalf of your family.

Leafs can die while the whole tree lives. If roots die so does the tree.

The decision tree of leadership does not takeaway a person’s ability to impact his or her family, marriage, friends, or organization. It encourages leadership while maintaining a finger tip of control. We hate being controlled and having to report everything we do to a superior. The decision tree of leadership creates freedom and empowers people to become responsible and influential. The outcome of a leaf decision can still be life-changing.

Any teenager or employee at some time experiences a shift in self-reliance where their dependence on people change. Teens desperately want freedom from their parents while employees wish their overbearing bosses would release them from their controlling grasp. A male teen wants to become his own person, but you and I know that giving someone pure independence is not a safe choice. Mistakes get made and people get hurt. The decision tree of leadership provides you with a lovely conceptual understanding of empowering another person so you grant a person their desired level of independence – while at the same time, you avoid being seen as a grumpy controlling onlooker.

Child-Parent Phenomena

In intimate adult relationships, I often see something called “child-parent dependency”. Child-parent dependent relationships have one individual termed the “child” who complies with the other individual termed the “parent”. The parent dictates who does what and who goes where. When an important decision needs to be made by the child, the person consults the parent on the problem or shifts all responsibility back to the parent.

The child of the relationship can hate being told what to do and will find an excuse to avoid the task whether through silence, avoidance, or forgetfulness. The child lacks assertive skills to solve the control issue. Child-parent dependency can be helped through the establishment of self-reliance with the decision tree of leadership. This is one of the many benefits of the decision tree.

The Six Strengths of the Decision Tree

A group, namely an organization, that follows the decision tree of leadership benefits in several ways. Firstly, employees frequently voice their pain about not having the power to implement actions they are responsible for. To change, grow, or conduct a simple daily activity, an employee monitored from their boss’ hawk-eye requires their superior’s approval. If you want employees or members of a group to enjoy what they do and feel pride, ownership, and responsibility, empower them with the decision tree of leadership.

The second strength of the decision tree of leadership is the clarity it establishes. Defining the level of authority establishes clear boundaries and expectations. If you lack expectations and clarity, you are more likely to blame someone else for a problematic result upon making a decision. When expectations are clear that empower an individual, the individual knows what is expected of him or her and works to achieve those expectations. We want to make an impact and we need to know where it is we can make our mark.

We want to make an impact and we need to know where it is we can make our mark.

The third strength is the personal and professional development the model builds in an individual. Communicate the decision tree of leadership to an appropriate person in your group and they will develop self-reliance and confidence. They become motivated to grow and work towards more leaf decisions.

The fourth strength is it increases the likelihood of good decisions. Mistakes often originate from inexperience or a lack of knowledge. A primary reason we make decisions for others is our lack of faith in the person’s decision-making skills. Parents who control their teenager’s life act from fear over their teenager’s supposed inability to make correct life decisions. A lot of unnecessary conflict can be reduced. The decision tree of leadership teaches people to swim in shallow water before venturing into the deep end. Once they get out to the deep end, they know no one is holding their hand making it all the more satisfying.

The fifth strength is the resources it frees up. People higher in the hierarchy are not bothered by problems people lower in the hierarchy can solve. The model gets people making more leaf decisions. Managers and executives are left with time to make other decisions.

The sixth strength, and one of the most powerful reasons for using the decision tree of leadership, is the large amount of personal accountability created by the model. A lack of personal accountability causes the blame-game and the involved group to not move forward as they fail to learn from past mistakes. The decision tree clearly empowers people to make decisions and leads to accountability. “The driving force behind any and all successful programs, initiatives and companies is accountability,” writes Gary Horsfall in a paper titled Accountability: The Force Behind Empowerment. “It is not possible in an environment where people feel that they have little or no control over their own destiny.”

Your Action Plan

Now you are aware of the decision tree of leadership and the power it has to transform an organization or similar group, I am going to share with you a quick step-by-step process for implementing the method. Next, I will provide some real-life examples of what decisions fit into which category of the model. Lastly, I will finish the article with an exercise to help you use the method as I want to help you go from intellectualizing the information to behavioral change and results.

To start using the method, firstly mention a new method you learned that will improve the family, organization, or team. They may not care what you discovered so you need to tune them into their favorite radio station, WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Describe specifically how they can develop more freedom, independence, and personal power if they give the method a shot.

If there is any resistance in implementing the decision tree, describe it as 30-day trial. Give it a shot for 30 days and if you do not like it, you just return to your normal ways.

Next, explain the decision tree to the person (or just email them the link to this page). Once you have done that, ask the person what categories their most common decisions fall under. Are they leaf, branch, trunk, or root decisions? Mutually work out a solution here is the secret to its ongoing implementation. When we make a choice on our own, instead of being forced into a choice, we stand by it stronger and longer.

The Decision Tree of Leadership in Action

Okay, now to provide a few examples of the decision categories. I will use a teenager and a parent to demonstrate the decision tree because the majority of people should relate to and understand the example. As you read the examples, the decisions made by one family or an organization will be differently categorized to others. Individuals have different personality characteristics and situations vary.

In this example, Julie is a parent to her teenager Sam. A leaf decision for Sam could be what he decides to do in his spare time. He has shown in the past that he does not need to be “babied around” in his free time. Though, you can probably see that this leaf decision could also be a branch decision. For example, Sam may need his mother’s permission for her to drive him to the local sports field.

Effective Delegation Tips

Follow these extra tips to make any delegation more effective and the people involved happier:

  1. Give or clarify the whole task. Define the whole tree. If you give people a part of the task, communicate your whole vision so they can envision their role in it.
  2. State the “what” and let them do the “how”.
  3. Establish milestones that measure progress during the task so time is not wasted furthering something unfavorable.
  4. Celebrate the achievement of milestones to motivate participants. The vision can be incomplete.

A branch decision for Sam could be deciding what University to attend. While some parents control their child’s education more so than others because of price and other variables that differ between countries, the university Sam decides must fit in with what he wants. Once he has made the decision, it would be helpful for his family and parents to know his decision as soon as possible, though he is not required to tell them immediately. Sam can ask for other’s opinions as to what they think about the issue, but the decision is for Sam to make.

One possible trunk decision for Sam is housework. Julie gives Sam a moderate amount of freedom to choose what chores he wants to do. Sam is influenced, not controlled, by his mother’s input into the decision. Whether Sam does or avoids the chores, his final decision affects his family to a minor extent.

A root decision for Sam could be borrowing his parent’s car. The implications of taking his parent’s car without permission greatly affects Sam’s family. One possible affect is them being stuck at home with no means of transport to get somewhere important. Safety is also an issue because Sam’s parents would be concerned for his whereabouts.

It can be tough to decide whether a decision is a leaf or branch, branch or trunk, trunk or root, but it does not matter. Not every decision needs to fit perfectly in the model. You can be imprecise. It is a model to help you – not one you must live by. Close enough is good enough if you have mutual agreement.

How to Be a Great Leader Right Now

To implement the decision tree of leadership in your family, organization, or other group, here is a simple exercise to do. Over the next week, write down your most common branch, trunk, and root decisions. Ignore leaf decisions if you want because there may be too many to list. Once you write your common decisions in the categories, you will see what areas you, or other people, are independent in and how your many decisions affects other group members. The exercise will help categorize and track what is going on.

The grand purpose of the decision tree is to establish freedom and personal growth. We hate being controlled and made to feel like a caged animal at the zoo. The decision tree of leadership empowers people to make decisions they would like to make or once could not make. Follow the decision tree of leadership to nurture growing relationships free from thorns of controlling people.

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Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to


Martin Haworth

Delegation is a legacy; an obligation we have to others to give them the opportunity to be stretched and challenged.

In any arena of life, when we know there are choices to make around who does what, we owe it to others to support and encourage them to take to the floor.

Doing everything ourselves is, indeed, the worst option for everyone.

Martin Haworth


Hi Joshua, I said I would bring my thoughts regarding your tree over here, and here I am. Let me say right off that I’m not disagreeing with the need to delegate or with the idea that people dislike being controlled or micro managed professionally or personally.

First, I must admit to being severely prejudiced in favor of simplicity as opposed to complexity. Although I understand what you are getting at, I found the tree metaphor complicated and the explanations of root, trunk, branch and leaf decisions overly similar and confusing.

I disagree when you say,“It can be tough to decide whether a decision is a leaf or branch, branch or trunk, trunk or root decision, but it does not really matter. Not every decision fits perfectly in the model – it does not need to. You can be imprecise. It is a model to help you – not one you must live by. In this model, close enough is good enough provided you have mutual agreement.”

We’re in agreement on the idea that the definitions must be mutually acceptable, but I believe that they need to be clearly defined at the start. ‘Close’ usually means that there are assumptions on both sides and assumptions lead to disagreements 99% of the time.

I strongly believe that growth comes from making mistakes on one’s own, without input from any source. It seems that your tree offers that, but in a very limited and controlled way.

Likewise, I can think of many root decisions that need to be made almost, if not totally, unilaterally.

The level of authority that goes with delegation is a function of the strengths and experience of the individual. These are what changes as opposed to the situation.

Using your teenager example, the level of independent decision making should be based on the maturity and responsibility of the teen in question, rather than age, sex, or the specific situation. /situations are constantly changing and really can’t be determined ahead of time.

Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Hey Miki. Yes, I to encourage people to make mistakes on their own. A child who’s responsibility is to look after a bike, can be put into various parts of the tree. If the child is mature, then maybe the parents can say it’s up to the child to look after her bike and that they will not buy her a new bike. If the child loses the bike, there’s a good lesson. (Consequences without punishment.) When it’s a parent’s bike the child uses, then it could be trunk decision because it impacts the family.

If it’s a unilateral decision, then by definition, it is a leaf decision. Unilateral means to affect one side. Leaf decisions can be impacting.

I can kind of see why the explanations of the four parts are complex. Because it is a model or a concept, it’s not something to live by and not something that needs to be defined to precision.

There could be 5, 8, 10+ categories if everything like a person’s maturity and responsibilty was incorporated. The tree gives a visual, simple reference for empowering other’s to make decisions. If it was a complete model, then it’d be complex.

A lot of communication and managerial theories get people into trouble because they live-by them as they try to fit the world to their book-view of the world instead of using the model as a guiding reference.


A very inspiring and useful metaphor. Categorizing levels where participation in decision making is crucial will really empower a person.

Thank you.

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