If you want it done right, do it yourself. That’s the motto of a control freak leader. You oversee everything. You need to approve everything. You come up with the ideas that everyone else needs to execute. Your definition of delegating is allowing others the freedom to get things started, then stepping in, taking over and doing it the way you want. You’ve got your tentacles embedded into every nook and cranny of your company. Yes, you are a proud and worthy control freak leader. You are also the most frustrating, smothering and energy sapping leader to work for.
There are varying degrees of control freak leaders. Some are project and turf selective where everyone knows it’s best to keep their hands off. Some are pouncers that, like a wild tiger tracking its prey, hold back until they’re about to explode … then pounce on a project and rip it to shreds. And as described in the opening paragraph, there is the certified obsessive-compulsive control freak that meddles in everything to the point where nothing gets done.
In business, control freak leaders can be an occasional speed bump, a persistent roadblock, or the mother of all traffic jams. Simply put, control freak leaders either hinder or stop all forward progress.
Here are some No-Compromise Leadership strategies to help control freak leaders transform themselves into engaging, empowering and trusting leaders:
- Leading is not about controlling: Leadership is about guiding, coaching and empowering followers to reach a destination. People follow because they want to get to a better place. There is a spirit of shared engagement in the process. A dynamic culture evolves. Controlling is about limitations, restrictions and confinement. Controlling is about keeping people in a box. Control freak leaders may get results, but eventually, those they control want out of the box.
- Controlling is exhausting: Controlling the execution of work, making and approving decisions, redoing work you don’t like and being wired into everything is exhausting. It is also described as “catch people doing something wrong.” Control freak leaders are often stressed out and well on their way to burnout if they’re not burnt out already. The only cure for an exhausted, stressed out, control freak leader is to shift his or her focus on clarifying expectations, creating better systems … and learning how to manage systems rather than control people.
- Stop fixing leaks: Control freak leaders function in a perpetual dilemma of trying to control everything around them or paying attention to the opportunities and hazards approaching them. Because control freak leaders are so busy down below finding and fixing leaks, they tend to bump into one problem or crisis after another. Captains belong on the bridge of their ship, not below fixing leaks. There’s nothing wrong with leaders stepping up and doing the work of the company, but not if it leaves the company leaderless. Control freak leaders must keep their hands off the work they empowered others to do. No compromise.
- Culture of trust or distrust: No matter how much they deny it, control freak leaders have trust issues. FACT: If a leader doesn’t trust people, people won’t trust the leader. In a culture of distrust, people are too busy watching their backs to pay attention to their work. Everything slows down. Mistakes and problems multiply. The blame game becomes the game of choice. Control freak leaders need to understand the origins of their distrusting nature. The path to building a trusting culture begins with understanding one’s own thinking and behavior. Done wisely and openly, extending trust isn’t painful or risky.
- Freedom of letting go: I’m a leader and the last thing I want to do is be into everyone’s work. My job is to set the destination (vision), empower my team, and ensure the well being of the company. Just like every member of my team, there are responsibilities and projects I must own and deliver on. My job is not to meddle and smother the drive and enthusiasm of others. My job is to help them succeed so we can all succeed. More than anything, I enjoy the freedom to focus on the work that fulfills me. I can’t experience that if I’m stuck in other people’s work.
Control freak leaders limit opportunities for themselves and those they are attempting to lead. They function in a box of their own making by keeping people confined in their own boxes of limited opportunity. At Strategies, the hardest work we do as business and leadership coaches is to get control freak leaders to recognize that they need to change first in order for their company to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.
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