In business coaching, failing to engage the workforce or to motivate individual team members is a disaster. Unmotivated, unengaged employees pack up and leave without a second thought. High employee turnover creates skyrocketing costs and poor organizational performance. Controlling behavior on the part of leaders causes employee disengagement and organizational underperformance.

Intelligent leaders don’t control people; they inspire them. They know that by attempting to control employees, they throw away the chance to inspire. Leadership and control are incompatible. Here’s why.

In the context of leadership, inspiration trumps control every time. 

Controlling leaders try to force their will upon others. Inspirational leaders make people want to do things and pursue goals. By relinquishing their need to control others, leaders find it easier to be influential and get their followers to assume psychological ownership of the goals and aspirations of an organization and its leaders.

The Consequences of Control-Focused Leadership

From the perspective of leadership coaching, leaders who believe that being in charge means assuming control are detrimental to the long-term performances of their organizations. Unlike leadership, control has the following effects on employees:

  • It limits potential. Not allowing people to use their talents as they see fit caps their potential, limiting their roles in an organization.
  • It penalizes innovation and initiative. A control-focused management style may have its limited place in leadership (during a crisis), but it dissuades people from taking initiative and developing innovative solutions to problems.
  • It causes disengagement. Employees who can’t contribute to a cause to the best of their abilities lose psychological ownership of goals and objectives. Once they do, they grow disinterested in the outcomes they help create.
  • It devalues talent. Leadership coaching professionals understand that control-centered leadership places little to no value on talent. It may even find talented individuals disruptive.
  • It hurts outcomes. Not allowing people to fully commit to the goals of an organization, control-focused managers shoot themselves in the foot, limiting the results their teams can achieve. 
  • It triggers defensive silence. Employees working under a controlling leader are reluctant to voice their opinions and perspectives and deprive an organization of valuable input.

Defensive silence starves an organization of valuable alternative perspectives. 

Focusing on control can cause harm. Controlling leaders limit growth in results, profits, and people. Organizations that predicate their structures on control over leadership fail to institute coaching-focused organizational cultures, destroying human capital and eliminating the chance to rear their leaders of the future in-house.

Executive coaching is aware that controlling leadership behaviors often lead to micromanagement, a plague with far-reaching consequences. From the perspective of the employees, micromanagement will:

  • Make them incapable of making decisions
  • Make them relinquish all initiative and sit around idly until managers direct them to do something
  • Cause them to forgo all activities other than what their managers tell them to do
  • Lead to their feeling disengaged and valueless
  • Cause blame to fall upon employees when results are disappointing

From the perspective of business coaching, leaders’ addiction to micromanagement is a towering hurdle in the path of healthy organizational development.

Executive coaching professionals know that eliminating controlling behaviors from leadership is no simple task. To limit it, one must understand its roots and causes.

Understanding the Drivers of Controlling Leadership Behaviors 

Many factors play into the controlling behaviors we see from some leaders. The psychological depths involved are significant as well.

Some leaders grow addicted to power and develop pathological fear of losing it. By giving up control, they feel they’re giving up power and throwing themselves at the mercy of chaos.

For such derailed leaders, collaboration and creativity can become synonyms with chaos. It’s the duty and goal of executive coaching specialists to help them reexamine why they became leaders in the first place.

Other fears that may push leaders to derail toward controlling behaviors are:

  • The compulsive need to know who does what and when.
  • The fear that left to their devices, team members won’t complete projects to a manager’s specifications.
  • The need to ensure people follow organizational standards and traditions.
  • The fear that a bad outcome will affect the career of the manager.
  • The fear that team members won’t complete projects on time.

Derailing leadership behaviors like compulsive control are rooted in good intentions and natural human concerns. Leadership coaches can help leaders defeat fears and understand how they can gain more control by relinquishing control.


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