Let me be honest. I can be a controlling person. It’s part of my character. I know that. If no one is taking charge, I’ll take over the room. (And, not because I’m extroverted. I’m not.) If we both come to a four-way stop at the same time—as nice as I try to be and as much as I love others—I won’t stall long for you to decide if you’re going. It’s just how I’m wired. If the leader isn’t in the room, I’ll lead.
I think my team, however—or at least I hope—would tell you I don’t perform as a controlling leader. Some may even wish I controlled more. It’s been a long process to discipline myself not to respond how I am naturally inclined to do.
Leaders, if you want to to have a healthy team environment, you must learn to control less and influence more. The differences are measured in the results of creating a healthy team.
I have learned though that successful leaders understand the difference in leading with influence and leading with control.
Here’s what I mean by the results of controlling versus influence:
In an organization where control is dominant:
- The leader’s ideas win over the team’s ideas—every time.
- The team follows, but only out of necessity (for a paycheck)—not willingly.
- Change happens through fear and intimidation—not motivation.
- People are managed closely—rather than led.
- Team members feel unappreciated and often under-utilized—rather than empowered.
- The organization is limited to the skills and ability of the controlling leader—not the strength of a team.
- Passion is weak—burnout is common.
But, In an organization where influence is dominant:
- The ultimate goal is what’s best for the organization, not an individual.
- Team spirit develops as relationships and trust grow.
- Willing followers, and other leaders, are attracted to the team.
- Leadership recruitment and development is a continued endeavor.
- Change is promoted through desire and motivation, not obligation.
- The organization has the expanded resources of a team of unique individuals.
- People feel empowered and appreciated.
Leaders, take your pick—control or influence. You can’t have it both ways. One will always be more dominant. Granted, I could write a lot on the messiness of leading by influence. There will often be confusion, lack of clarity and misunderstandings. It comes when all the rules aren’t clearly defined. This, however, is a tension to be managed not a problem to be solved.
When it comes to creating organizational health—influence will always trump control. Every time.