To control freaks everywhere!

When you are put into positions of power and authority in organisations you are given many levers and mechanisms which you can try to use to control – appraisals, bonuses, salaries etc. However compelling people to do things for you is not leading them – it’s an attempt at control, and usually people resent it to varying degrees.

This is why we emphasise leadership, where people follow you because you are empowering, because you are leading towards something they believe in, because they trust you. This is about trust, empowerment and followers choosing to follow. It is not about control.

The irony for leaders is that they will often inhabit positions of power and authority in their organisations, and it is seductive to resort to these levers of control, rather than to truly lead. It’s easier to use the levers, at the end of the day!

However we know from life, that they are not so effective, and so we face a choice between the easy and less effective attempts at control, and the harder, riskier and much more effective move to leadership.

I see teams and individuals wrestle with this challenge all the time. It is the challenge for anyone who manages people. So, experiment. Start to notice your mechanisms of power and control, and how you use them.

  • When do you resort to power and control and what would it take to do something different?
  • Notice what happens to you when you feel the need to control – you will probably tense up (notice where), and feel an unpleasant out of control feeling. Perhaps there will be a familiar voice in your head telling you it’s all about to go horribly wrong. Notice all of this – this is your history talking.
  • Take a deep breath and center yourself in some way (more information on this in my book) and really reflect on what is important here. Take time for this.

Begin to engage with the people you manage, and talk to them about where you’re going as a team, and experiment with letting go of some of this control., noticing your reactions whilst doing so. What happens?

As long as you don’t go overboard and let go of all mechanisms of control without engaging with your team sufficiently, you’ll probably be surprised by the result. This could be the starting point for you controlling less and leading more.

10:39 am | by Pete_Hamill

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