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How Leaders Handle Situations They Can’t Control
The need to control everything that surrounds us stems from a series of cognitive distortions that interfere with how we perceive reality. Self-awareness is key to clearing up these distortions and recognizing what we can and can’t control. Leadership coaching can help you develop the self-awareness you need to address control-related problems.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius.
It’s not uncommon for leaders to feel the need to control everything around them. Some people struggle with this type of addiction in their day-to-day lives. There are, however, things we cannot control in life, regardless of how much we obsess.
We can’t control the weather or how people react to things. We can’t control the traffic, and we can’t control whether people like us or not. We can, however, control how we relate to uncontrollable factors.
Are you a control freak?
Being addicted to controlling things you can’t realistically control is a psychological predicament, especially for leaders. As I’ve mentioned in my leadership coaching books and posts, the need to exert control translates to micromanagement in leadership. Micromanagement destroys employee engagement and motivation while undermining leadership in other ways.
Business coaching can help control-addicted leaders find peace of mind and straighten their leadership. Here’s what you can do if you have this problem.
Change Your Mindset
What someone else tells you aloud is less important than what you whisper to yourself. You can whisper some negative thoughts to yourself if you aren’t careful.
People who aren’t self-aware find it difficult to relate to experiences objectively. Their thoughts, attitudes, and values cloud their perception. They experience cognitive distortion.
Control fallacy is a cognitive distortion. Our self-centered thoughts deceive us and tell us we should attempt to control things over which we have no control. These thoughts also tell us we are responsible for certain events and things and that we should exert control over them.
Once you recognize such thoughts as fallacious, you should disregard them. You will find yourself more willing to let go of things that aren’t your responsibility.
Recognize What You Can Control
Cognitive distortion can drive us to control fallacy, but also to its opposite. A lack of self-awareness makes us prone to blame external factors and other people for problems in our lives we could fix.
As an executive coaching professional, I encourage clients to take long, objective looks at the circumstances they deem beyond their control. Often, they realize they can do a lot more than they think they can to alleviate unfavorable circumstances.
Self-awareness is key to being able to tell what you can and cannot control in your life.
Suppress the Need to Micromanage
Micromanagement is a harmful leadership behavior. Employees don’t like bosses who breathe down their necks, and robbing employees of every opportunity to take initiative doesn’t do much to empower them. Most will disengage and leave your organization. Those that remain become over reliant on your leadership and will grow into chores to manage.
The easiest way for a leader to defeat micromanaging tendencies is to focus on leading through outcomes instead of tasks.
Tell your team the results you expect and let employees handle the minutiae on their own. Great leaders only step in when their teams need guidance or when something goes wrong.
Assume and Expect the Best
Giving people the benefit of the doubt and expecting employees to do their best work can stave off control fallacy. Don’t be overly naive, however. If you see employees intentionally gaming the system, take appropriate measures.
To take your mind off your burning need to micromanage or control every aspect, try mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness can help you attain self-awareness.
By practicing mindfulness, you can focus on where you are right now and what you’re feeling, eliminating all other thoughts from your mind. Such exercises help you become comfortable with uncomfortable situations, feelings, and thoughts. They can help you achieve higher levels of self-awareness.
If you feel you can’t handle certain situations, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. An executive coach can help you achieve a level of self-awareness that allows you to curb your detrimental leadership tendencies.