"Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others." -John Maxwell

"In the past a leader was a boss. Today leaders must be partners with their people. They no longer can lead based on positional power." ~Ken Blanchard

Fighting for control is one of the most common failings of leaders in today’s workplace. It isn’t that they aren’t supposed to be in control of their operation; they are. It’s that there is a difference between “control” and “controlling” and it is usually much easier (in a sense) to be controlling. Not making that distinction, and not making the right choice, can destroy their own effectiveness and the effectiveness of their team.

Below are the 9 ways in which a controlling boss undermines their organization’s effectiveness:

Not Utilizing the Talent – Every leader has an enormous amount of talent resources within their team. But if they are controlling all of the decisions, ideas, and process flows, there is no way to tap into those resources. Team members aren’t free to learn a new strength or to voice where they might be able to help. They are shut out of the process of working towards a goal/ Even if a team member is brave enough to voice their ideas and thoughts, they will likely not be given serious consideration or have their suggestion taken over by the boss which dissuades other team members from sharing in the future.

Lack of Delegation – Control is often at the heart of a lack of delegation. There is a difference between giving orders and delegating. Delegating has a certain freedom and ownership built into it for the team members. The empowering and productivity benefits of delegating to a staff are relatively non-existent in a controlling atmosphere. Yes, the leader may be giving lots of direction, but it tends to be precise, step-by-step direction that allows little freedom and requires the team member to come right back to you when complete. That doesn’t grow team members professionally at all.

Exhausting – Control isn’t as precise of a goal as many leaders think. There is always something else, another aspect, a level deeper that you can seek control. Part of the power of ceding that control to others is that you don’t get caught in that downward spiral where you spend your time increasingly influencing less and less important work. This never-ending search takes an enormous amount of mental and physical resources on a leader’s part. There’s a reason they have a staff and this is one of those reasons. If they allow themselves to continue seeking control at every turn, they’ll find themselves at a MUCH higher likelihood of making mistakes and burning out.  

Less Teamwork – Control is often the opposite of collaboration. If the leader isn’t modeling and teaching collaboration it is far less likely to be something that their team demonstrates. Team members won’t look for ways to work together to achieve the direction of the controlling boss, they will have been taught to wait to work together until the leader says they should. This lack of initiative will kill any teamwork in the organization.

More Roadblocks to Progress – A controlling boss requires EVERYTHING to run through them which slows or halts progress, or even basic operations, within the organization. A long line of people outside their door is usually a good indication that there is an issue. This is often the only issue that can “bring light” to the counterproductive behavior as more and more people in the organization run into the roadblock.

Impatience – Because they are so busy being in the middle of everything they don’t have the time to listen, to explain themselves, to think things through, or to wait for the fruits of their labor to bloom. This constant lack of time creates a tension in the office that can put everyone on edge.

Hyper-Critical – When a leader focuses on control, they tend to eliminate opinions. What this does is strip away another layer expression from the team and gives the leader an incentive to force their opinion further and further throughout the processes which leads to criticism over any deviation from the directive regardless of how non-specific that direction may have been.

Toxic Environment – With an environment that doesn’t encourage expression or empowerment and which does encourage rushed decisions and scapegoats to avoid the criticism, it is no wonder that a controlling boss fosters a toxic environment in the workplace. This environment further exacerbates all of the other ills, which leads to…

Finally: Turnover – When the leader is in control of everything, by definition the team member is not. People have an innate desire to have control over their own lives, and that extends into their work life as well. If the leader isn’t giving them some control over their work and their work environment, then they aren’t creating an atmosphere the team is comfortable in. Combine that with all of the above….and you won’t be keeping anyone on board very long at all.

For an employee stuck under a controlling boss, the options are usually limited. You can suggest regular updates instead of oversight or try to wriggle some flexibility in the process of achieving a clearly defined goal, but often the controlling boss doesn’t realize their error until it is too late and productivity has slipped. Even then they may feel that they are doing the right thing by maintaining a tightfisted grip on the operation. Because there is little professional growth potential under a controlling boss, it is often best to look for other opportunities with or without the organization to continue your career progression. 

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