4 Tell-tale Signs You are a Controlling Leader

Posted by Joseph Sherren on January 15, 2018

I often hear people say that change is difficult.  However, I do not think that it is change that is difficult at all.  In fact, I believe most people love change.  If you think of it, people change their cars, change their clothes, change their homes, and some even change their spouses or partners.

I believe that adapting to change is easy, it is letting go of old stuff that is difficult – letting go of things that, in the past, have made you comfortable, happy, or successful.  No one usually has a problem purchasing a new pair of shoes, but how difficult is it to throw out the old ones?

Our biggest problem is letting go of old ideas, old behaviors, and old beliefs.  This is also the reason why many very successful companies end up failing; their ideas, beliefs, and behaviors that made them successful up to this point may be the same thinking that will cause them to fail in the future.

There are usually two reasons why people create companies and become entrepreneurs.  One is to create wealth, the other is to satisfy a strong need for control.  However, entrepreneurs cannot do both if they want to continue positive growth.

The more a business grows in size or revenues – the more likely the founder will be ousted if control is their primary motivation. Think of what happened to Steve Jobs (Apple), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Larry Page (Google), or David Neeleman (JetBlue). All ousted from the very empire they created because of their inability to let go.

Leaders and entrepreneurs maintain control by:

  1. Continually telling people what to do. Most people dislike being told what to do, yet many leaders have been conditioned to believe that is their role. Giving orders will not inspire others to work harder, or increase their productivity.
  2. Showing favoritism. Entrepreneurs often hire friends, past co-workers, and family members. That’s not a problem – until they favor those people over other employees. Every employee expects fair treatment.
  3. Hiring the wrong people. Entrepreneurs pride themselves on making gut-feeling decisions which is expedient, however, when hiring talent, it is a recipe for disaster. Long-term success means that leaders must surround themselves with competent, committed talent. When companies use scientifically validated hiring assessments as a part of the hiring process, overall productivity and culture improves. However, high potential talented people need to be given challenging jobs, trained appropriately, and empowered with control over how they do their work.
  4. Being inflexible. Leaders are often unwilling to delegate the responsibility because it won’t get done “right.” Translation: “Right” usually means “my way.”

Not everyone thinks, acts, communicates, or works in the same way. People are different, and great leaders make special efforts to understand the differences in their people. They acknowledge those differences rather than have everything done “their (right) way.”

If your overarching need is for control, your company will never grow to its full potential.  If you can let go and focus on growing the company, the opportunities are amazing!

My question to all leaders and entrepreneurs:

If you asked your people about these four controlling behaviors, what would they say about you?

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