Delegation Disaster Stories: Learning from the Worst Authority Fumbles in History

Delegation Disaster Stories: Learning from the Worst Authority Fumbles in History


Did you know that delegation is a critical skill for entrepreneurs, business owners, and modern professionals? In fact, effective delegation can make or break a company’s success. In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of delegation and dive into some of the most disastrous authority fumbles in history. By examining these failures, we can uncover valuable lessons that will help you avoid similar pitfalls in your own business endeavors.

Section 1: Understanding Delegation

Delegation is not just a fancy term thrown around in the business world; it is an essential practice that involves assigning tasks, responsibilities, and authority to others. When done correctly, delegation can increase productivity, foster teamwork, and empower employees to take ownership of their work. However, it also comes with potential risks. If delegation is mishandled, it can lead to miscommunication, conflicts, and ultimately, organizational failures.

Section 2: The Costly Mistakes of Famous Entrepreneurs

2.1 Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Strike

Imagine being Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate of the late 19th century, and facing a labor strike that could cripple your empire. Carnegie’s downfall was his inability to effectively delegate authority to manage the labor dispute at his Homestead steel plant. Instead of empowering managers to negotiate and resolve the conflict, Carnegie took matters into his own hands, exacerbating the situation. The strike turned violent, resulting in casualties and tarnishing Carnegie’s reputation.

2.2 Henry Ford’s Failed Delegation Experiment

Henry Ford, the pioneer of the assembly line and founder of Ford Motor Company, believed in the power of delegation. However, his experiment of delegating to unqualified subordinates proved disastrous. Ford’s desire to reduce his involvement in day-to-day operations led him to promote unskilled managers, resulting in production delays, poor quality control, and plummeting employee morale. This failure highlighted the importance of delegating to capable individuals who possess the necessary skills and knowledge.

2.3 Steve Jobs’ Power Struggles at Apple

Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple’s success, was notorious for his reluctance to delegate key responsibilities. Jobs believed that he alone possessed the creative genius required to lead the company. However, his iron grip on decision-making led to power struggles within Apple and stifled innovation. When Jobs temporarily left the company due to health issues, Apple experienced a decline. This episode serves as a reminder that effective delegation is crucial for long-term success and sustainability.

Section 3: Authority Fumbles in Corporate Disasters

3.1 Enron’s Lack of Accountability

Enron, once a respected energy company, crumbled due to a lack of accountability. The company’s top executives failed to delegate oversight responsibilities, allowing unethical practices to run rampant. This lack of delegation resulted in one of the largest corporate frauds in history and the eventual collapse of Enron. The lesson here is clear: delegation without accountability can have devastating consequences.

3.2 BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 was a catastrophic environmental disaster. One of the key factors contributing to this tragedy was the lack of effective delegation in safety protocols. BP’s failure to delegate the responsibility of ensuring proper safety measures resulted in the loss of lives, massive environmental damage, and billions of dollars in financial losses. This serves as a stark reminder that effective delegation is not just about task assignment but also about ensuring the right people are responsible for critical decision-making.

3.3 Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal

Volkswagen’s emissions scandal rocked the automotive industry in 2015. The company’s failure to delegate compliance and ethical responsibilities led to the installation of illegal software in their diesel vehicles. This scandal severely damaged Volkswagen’s reputation and financial standing. It serves as a stark example of the consequences that can arise when companies fail to delegate ethical responsibilities and prioritize compliance.

Section 4: Learning from Historical Delegation Failures

As we explore the delegation disasters throughout history, we notice common themes and patterns. One recurring lesson is the importance of empowering and trusting qualified individuals with delegated tasks. It is essential to match responsibilities with the right people who possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and integrity. Additionally, accountability and oversight play a vital role in ensuring that delegated tasks are carried out ethically and effectively.

Section 5: Best Practices for Effective Delegation

To avoid authority fumbles and improve delegation skills, entrepreneurs, business owners, and modern professionals can follow some best practices. Firstly, it’s crucial to clearly define tasks, expectations, and deadlines when delegating. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and reduces the likelihood of miscommunication. Secondly, select individuals with the right expertise and provide them with the necessary support and resources to succeed. Finally, maintain open lines of communication and regularly check in on progress to offer guidance and address any challenges that arise.


Delegation is an indispensable skill for entrepreneurs, business owners, and modern professionals. By learning from the worst authority fumbles in history, we can gain valuable insights into the importance of effective delegation and the potential consequences of mishandling it. So, take a moment to reflect on your own delegation practices. Are you empowering your team members? Are you matching responsibilities with the right people? By implementing the lessons learned from these disasters, you can avoid similar pitfalls and pave the way for success in your own ventures.