How Important is Control to a Leader?

Many people in Leadership positions believe leading is about control. Especially controlling the people they are supposed to be leading. People in leadership positions who don’t actually lead are really struggling with this great corporate experiment happening around the world that is called “Working from Home.”

Because they don’t actually lead they have little influence over the actions and attitudes of the people they are supposed to be leading. They have so few leadership skills that rather than attempt to earn the commitment of their people they seek to force their compliance.

But compliance requires control and that’s much harder to come by in a work from home environment. That’s why “leaders in title” only have so many issues with their people not being in the office and directly under their thumb. They can’t wait for a return to “normal.”

But they will have to wait because working from home is the new normal. The pretend leaders who hope to order their people back into the office have one of two choices. The first is to grow into an Authentic Leader and actually lead. The second is to join the growing heap of failed “leaders in title” only who couldn’t let go of the need to control every aspect of their employees workday.

People will eventually return to the office, in some form. Likely they will spend at least as much time working from home as working in an office environment. There will never be a time when rush hours look like the rush hours of “the before times.” There will never again be a time when large companies pile a few hundred employees into a large conference room simply because they can. Things will never again be exactly as they were.

This work from home experiment has been going on long enough that real data exists regarding productivity concerns. Most people are either as productive or more productive than when working in the office. In many cases where productivity has suffered it has suffered due to the “leader in title.” They attempt to reach through the phone or computer to control their people as if they were still in the office.

The people who are actually led while working from home seem to do just fine.

There was a time when “work-life balance” was the goal. That goal is gone. The new goal is “work-life integration” where employees have choices about when they get their work done. “Work-life integration” means the employees can run an errand in the middle of the day. It means they don’t have to make up some cockamamie excuse about why they didn’t immediately answer the phone.

“Work-life balance” is full of controls. “Work-life integration” focuses on positive outcomes. It eliminates the need for many of the tradition controls.

Here’s the deal…Authentic Leaders already know they control far fewer things than they thought they would before they became leaders. They have also learned they don’t have to control anyone to earn their commitment.

Control is unnecessary for an Authentic Leader. They have influence into the attitude, activities, and outcomes of each member of their organization. If you’re in a leadership position and your struggling with the “work from home” thing then it’s very possible that you’re trying to control things…and people beyond your control.

Stop trying to control people and start building relationships with them. It’s those relationships, built on trust, that will allow you to influence your people to productivity heights that control freaks can only dream of.

Control What You Can

This is likely to be one of the shortest posts I’ve ever written. That’s because it’s about controlling the things in your life that you have control over. Complete control. 

 

There aren’t many of those things. Here are the ones that come to mind.

 

You have complete and total control over your level of professionalism. It doesn’t matter what your colleagues are doing, it doesn’t matter what your clients or customers are doing. It makes no difference what industry you’re in or what position you hold in your organization. Whether you’re in the mail room or the executive office YOU decide the level of professionalism that you will exhibit at ALL times. 

 

We do not get to choose our family but we most certainly get to choose our friends. You have complete control over the people outside of your family that you allow into your life. Since you are basically the compilation of the five people you spend the most time with it is imperative that you choose your friends well. 

 

If you choose to hang around negative people you will be a negative person. If you choose to spend large amounts of your time with people who lack integrity then you will lack integrity. If you believe you can consistently swim against the current of the environment you place yourself in then you are fooling yourself. Control who you allow into your life or the people in your life will control you. 

 

No matter where you live, no matter how you live, and no matter the circumstances and obstacles that have been placed before you, your attitude is and always will be your choice. You have complete and total control over your attitude every waking moment.

 

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. In his fantastic book “Man’s Search for Meaning” he describes the choice of attitude as the last of the human freedoms. His point is this; all other freedoms are perishable, they can be taken from you. The only freedom that can never be taken from you is the choice of a positive attitude. 

 

You may disagree with that but think about it…is your situation really worse than being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp? If Viktor Frankl could control his attitude in that environment then I, and you, can certainly control ours, regardless of how difficult it may be. 

 

There are plenty of other things you have some control over but the key word there is “some.” There isn’t much you have complete control over but if success is your objective then you must control the things you can. 


And yes, I now acknowledge that this post wasn’t that short after all. 


Are you in Control? Really?

So, you’re the boss! You’re the one in charge! You’re in Control!  The buck always stops with you! Well…not exactly.

     

When you’re at or near the top of your organization you have lots of influence, but you don’t control all that much. You don’t control your peoples’ attitudes. You can help them motivate themselves but if they don’t want to be motivated then their motivation is beyond your control. You can’t control what they think. You might be able to prevent them from saying something but you cannot prevent them from thinking it.

     

Somewhere along the way to achieving your leadership position someone might have told you that leadership, or being “the boss” is about being in charge and being in control. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that you can’t make much of anything happen by yourself. In fact, all you can control with any certainty is your own behavior.

     

But there is some good news. Your position likely means that you have boatloads of influence. So, use your behavior, your personal example, to influence the behavior and performance of others. Your team will do what you do far sooner than they will do what you say.  You are the model for their successful behavior.

     

You might also want to keep in mind that your influence goes both ways. If you have a negative attitude then your team will also. If you are not motivated then your team won’t be motivated either. The best way to get more from your team is to give more of yourself.

     

Authentic Leaders do not expect more from their people than they expect from themselves. Authentic Leaders know that the best way to lead is to “show” rather than “tell”.  Authentic Leaders are intentional in their effort; they “show” on purpose and often on schedule. They “self-check” their attitudes and use goals as a way of keeping themselves motivated.

     

Authentic Leaders know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Authentic Leaders are diligent in making certain they do nothing to hold their people back. They do not think in terms of controlling their people, they think in terms of influencing them and influencing them in a positive way.


Remember, control is a manager’s tool, influence is the tool of true leaders. Lead Today!

Controlling Leadership

One of the biggest leadership myths around is the myth about leadership control. If you buy into the control myth then you likely believe that once you have a position of leadership you will also have substantially more control over people, things, and circumstances than you did before.

You might have a little more but not much and not often.

I see new leaders all the time trying to over control people and situations and it’s almost always a mistake. New leaders try to get their people to think like them, to act like them and to do most everything just like them. They try to exercise their “authority” over their people and they end up with compliant people but not committed ones. 

New leaders (okay, there are a lot of experienced leaders who think this too) believe their people have to do what they are told in the way that they were told to do it. (by the way, they don’t, they merely have to pretend to) They never even try to get their people committed because they are so fascinated with their newfound ability to make people comply. 

They frequently mistake compliance for control. So new leaders tend to make their plans believing that they control much more than they actually do. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

I might add that no business plan survives contact with the competition and no personal plan survives contact with other people.

When your plan meets the real world, the real world wins. Very little goes totally as planned. Errors pile up. Mistaken suppositions come back to bite you. The most brilliant plan loses touch with reality. Because complete leadership control is a myth.

The only thing that a leader can truly control is how they react to the uncontrollable. 

When the uncontrollable and unforeseen events happen do you as a leader calm the storm or add to the turbulence? Do you provide hope to the hopeless or are you hopelessly negative? Are you the model of flexibility and perseverance or do you dither in the comfort of your office?

Are you an Authentic Leader or just someone with a fancy title and position? 

If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to boss your way to compliance and start showing that you trust, understand, and care about your people enough to earn their commitment. If you’re an Authentic Leader then stop trying to control your people and start encouraging and influencing them to commit. 

Controlled people get the job done…barely. Committed people get the job done well, quickly, and completely. People resist control and respond to leadership. 

Authentic Leaders don’t buy into the control myth!

Your So Called Life

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Life! It’s a treasure, it’s one thing all human beings on the planet have in common, we all have a life.

Another thing we all have in common is that we were all created equal. That’s a true fact! Here’s another true fact; in many ways, we don’t stay equal very long. The world quickly divides it’s human inhabitants into the “haves” and “have nots” and into the “privileged” and the “not so privileged.” Or does it?

I don’t really think it does; I think we do it to ourselves. Understand what I mean by that, I don’t mean someone else does it to you, I mean you do it to yourself. More than any other single factor, you decide if you’ll be a “have” or a “have not.” You make that decision frequently, every single day.

That decision will impact almost every other decision you make.

Do yourself a favor and get a couple of blank pieces of paper (okay use your computer, tablet or even your phone if you don’t have paper) and on the top of one write “things in my life that I control.” On the top of the other one write “things in my life I that don’t control.” Over the next few days jot down all the things that fit in the appropriate category on each piece of paper.

Take some time to study each piece of paper, pay particular attention to the paper with the “don’t control” stuff. Next, copy the stuff on the “don’t control” paper onto the “do control” paper and throw the “don’t control” paper away. Physically throw it away, burn it, bury it, however you do it, just get it out of your life.

It’s your life! Don’t give control of any part of it to someone or something else.

Your lot in life is much more dependent on your thoughts and actions than anything else. Your circumstances and environment play a role but in many instances we even control those factors.

Make a plan to control all of the “don’t control” stuff that you moved over to your “do control” list. Ask for help, network with people that already have control over those things, do what they do. Ask for some more help, but remember, “help” means help, it doesn’t mean do it for me. (some of you are already saying “I can’t” and to you let me say that at the top of the list of the things that you do control you need to write “my attitude” and you need to review that list every morning)

It’s your life and you deserve to live it that way. A tiny percentage of the world’s population ever actually have control of their life taken from them but a rather large percentage gives it away.

Successful people never give control of their life away. You’ll have a real tough time being a “have” if you hang on to that “don’t control” paper, even if you just keep it in the back of your mind. Get rid of it and really live YOUR life!