In a recent meeting, an action arose and I asked one of my team (PJ) to catch it and complete it. He (tongue in cheek) commented to all those at the meeting that I was "the best delegator" he'd ever worked with. His humorous implication was that I don't do any work, I just get other people to do it for me. I've known PJ for years and worked on many successful projects with him, so I was happy to be the butt of his joke. However, I see delegation is a positive thing, so it set me thinking about how different people understand the verb "delegate".
The dictionary says it means "to give a particular job, duty, right, etc. to someone else so that they do it for you". The fact that one is giving one's work to somebody else to do doesn't sound altogether positive, but if we accept that a team can do more work than one individual, and if we accept that a team needs a leader to coordinate and dispatch work around the team, then the team leader isn't delegating his/her own work, they are simply spreading the team's work around the members of the team.
However, in my mind, delegation is a tool to help the team learn and grow. And that means that I choose to delegate some of the management work to members of the team also. By doing so, I can coach them to learn new skills; and I inevitably learn new things as we go along too.
Not everyone wants to be a manager, but everybody needs to understand the objectives and challenges of management. Armed with knowledge of management, one can work in harmony with one's leaders and management. Moreover, it is often the case that the perception of the team leader's role is not a match for the actuality. For me, team leadership is about a) achieving more than I can manage on my own, b challenging myself and my team to do new things, c) helping my team members to become the best they can become, d) learning from others, e) enjoying the benefits of being part of a successful team.
So, "The Delegator", is it a positive or a negative epithet? In my mind it is a distinctively positive name. It means I'm helping my team to learn and grow, and I'm helping them with their career and their ability to enjoy their working days (and at the same time they are helping me to do the same).