LA 062 - Are you A Controlling or Controlled Leader?
“As long as you do everything exactly the way I want it when I want it, you can do it any way you want whenever you want.” The Head Chef told me on my first day in his kitchen. There was to be no ambiguity, no doubt that there was one way of doing things, and it was his way. I wasn’t there to express my creativity and brilliance. I was there to follow orders and comply with any and every demeaning request. With his first sentence, my new boss had stripped me of any personal control and all autonomy. Boy, did I feel motivated?!? It was, however, the most efficient kitchen I had worked in. We turned out surprisingly excellent food and you could, quite literally, eat off the floor. Rarely did anything go wrong, but should someone make a mistake, then Chef would be quick to bellow profanities and ensure that it was unlikely you would make that mistake again. Well, either that or you ran crying from the kitchen never to return. Within a year, this chef was awarded his first Michelin Star. We celebrated by working harder than ever, scrubbing floors with more gusto and no-one ever dared to argue or question the Chef’s absolute authority in all matters. Success it seems is maintaining control. Maintaining absolute control over every team member requires the gentle art of micromanaging everything. Every single little thing. Absolute control. And using power to get what you wanted. Taking all control from team members and empowering them only insofar as they could comply with precise instructions barked often in close proximity so that you could enjoy a shower at the same time. Most new managers quickly learn a similar lesson. That exerting power over others gets them to do things. Keeping tight control enables you to maintain discipline and authority. And, in the short term at least, be successful. And as the team grows, and new people join, the controlling manager soon finds that no-one else can be trusted to get things right. Other people just don’t care enough to make everything perfect. So you micro-manage every tiny aspect of the operation. Stress levels increase and every team member fears making even a tiny mistake. For the controlling leader, any time you turn away, someone will be undermining your authority. Trying to steal some of your power over team members for themselves. You need to spot these interlopers early and either get them out or undermine any respect or authority they have gained. Belittling them in front of everyone can be very effective and if you can make them cry in public, so much the better. Of course, you can trust no-one, even when you place family members in their “meritocratically” assigned roles (refusing to accept that nepotism has any place in your decisions). You rally your flunkeys to police on your behalf and alter the rules and policies to tip the balance firmly in your favour of maintaining absolute power, authority and control. Honesty becomes corrupt and whilst you demand transparency from others, you never practice it outside your inner circle. The controlling leader lives in constant fear that someone else is trying to take away their power and control Yet most controlling leaders often began their career with good intentions. They became controlling leaders because it works. Well, it works in the beginning. When you are young (and perhaps foolish) your leadership approach is going to be about control and power. It seems to work. No scrub that, if you are big enough in some dimension, it works because others give in to your tantrums and belligerence and do your bidding. Because this locus of control shows signs of being effective in the short term, it can quickly become the de-rigour standard by which the leader operates. And we know that power corrupts the soul and once you have tasted real power, its addictive properties mean that nothing else can get in the way of your fix. But then there comes a point when your ego and pride get in the way of better decision making and micromana