A leadership style that is controlling creates a toxic, minimally productive workplace. The danger of controlling leadership is that an enviroment of diminished trust, hindered communication, stifled initiative, divisiveness, and a climate of apprehension and ambiguity are created from the top down. Employees will quicky adapt to this by either conforming to it, creating a whole host of personnel and personality issues within the workplace, or worse, by simply leaving the organization creating enormous expense and inefficiency.
Sometimes people in leadership are simply not qualified as leaders, but that is only because they have not had the training or experience understand how to guide and motivate their team. If you find yourself, as a professional, in a position of leasership because your education or credentials qualify you as the head of the organization, there are several pitfalls you may face if issues of control are not addressed as you develop in your own leadership style. How can you avoid the problems of wasted time and lost resources that come with the toxic envorinment created by a controlling leader? What are some of the qualities of controlling leadership that you may be displaying without being aware of it?
While there is a balance between leadership directives and decision making, and completely controlling the environment of the workplace, you, as a leader, must be on guard against some of the key behaviors that will make you a controlling leader and create an environment of mistrust and negativity within your organization.
Unpredictability, while in a spouse or friend may be a fun character trait, is rarely perceived as a good trait in leadership. Do you re-schedule employee reviews or fail to keep regularly scheduled staff trainings or meetings? Can your team members count on you to finalize or approve their proposals in a timely manner? Do you operate from a mindset that if it's not important to you, it's not important? Failure to be predictable and reliable in situations where your staff and team members are counting on your input in order to move forward or gauge their performance can not only diminish their respect for you, but it can create an environment in which your employees are constantly "on-guard" against what may or may not happen. Good leaders know that those looking to them for direction can place their trust in them based on past behavior, and, therefore, can predict with some security what lies ahead. Good leaders understand that predictability is an important component of leadership.
Pettiness is another often overlooked form of controlling behavior in a leader. Are you worried about what employees are discussing? Do you spend time trying to convince employees separately what to think about you and what to think about each other? Are you unable to overlook when a team member may not completely agree with you on some personal issue? Attempting to control what people think and talk about is not only an incredible waste of your time and mental energy, which you likely have little to spare, but pettiness is
actually counterproductive in that it will reinforce negative attitudes already in place, and simply take the gossip to the lunchroom instead of the cubicles. Pettiness will not address the problem. If there truly is disrespect and an attempt to undermine or sabotage your leadership to the detriment of the project or the organization, this type of gossip and idle chat should be addressed. However, if employees are simply "venting" on occasion or happen to disagree with you about some moral or personal issue, as a leader, you must resist any urge to try to change their mind or control what they think or feel. People are people, and good leaders understand that reinforcing positive behavior often addresses and puts a stop to the negative behavior much sooner and with much less drama.
Ambiguity and secretiveness are often tools of a controlling personality, and should be avoided by leaders. If you are by nature diffident or withdrawn, you can still be a good leader by giving clear consistent directives, setting defined expectations, and keeping lines of communication open with your employees and team members. While leaders are constantly privy to information that their staff and team may not necessarily need to fulfill their roles, there is still cause for discretion when relaying information. For the most part, however, if your team members and employees understand clearly your expectations of them they then have the freedom to work within those boundaries and the framework that you have clearly set forth. Good leaders understand that boundaries and guidelines, when clearly established and consistenly enforced, actually can set their team members free to innovate and collaborate for the benefit of the organization.
In closing, being a leader doesn't necessarily mean that you must be controlling. In fact, the opposite is true. Good leaders don't need to control their team. Good leaders gain control of their team by inspiring and guiding them, and setting forth the goals and boundaries within which their team is free to work. Productive teams are possible! Good leaders understand that directing is far more productive and pleasant than controlling.
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