4 Ways a Leader Becomes Controlling

Manager and  joypad

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. I have worked closely with a controlling leader, so I guess I may me sensitive to the issue. I’ve written about this issue previously, including:

7 Suggestions for Confronting a Controlling Leader

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

And others.

Under a controlling leader’s watch, leadership development is virtually non-existent. Pride is rampant. Ideas are squashed. Momentum is curtailed. It never works well.

A friend of mine and I were discussing this issue recently. His boss is a controlling leader. It has led to burnout for my friend and caused him to start putting his resume out. He’s done. Can’t take it anymore. Knowing this young leader, I realize the business is going to suffer because the leader can’t let go of the reigns. As an outsider, it appears they will be losing a quality person if they lose my friend. At this point in the life of the business, it will be a devastating blow.

In the conversation, my friend asked an important question. “How does one become a controlling leader?”

Good question. I don’t know that I can answer for every controlling leader, (My aim has never been to speak for that group), but I have some theories.

Here are 4 suggestions:

Faith – Actually, the lack thereof. Typically, this leader doesn’t trust anyone except him or herself to do the job. They are afraid to release the vision to others. In terms of the church, our vision is shaped by Christ, and the ministry leader who struggles with their faith will always default to trying to make things happen on his or her own.

Failure – This leader has witnessed failure; either personally or in the lives of others. They are now leery of things going wrong and so they refuse to let anyone else take charge. Controlling appears to be the “safer” option.

Fanfare – These leaders thrive on attention they receive from the limelight. They want the power, prestige and privileges that come with leadership, so they shut down anyone else who may appear to be easing into a position of influence.

Fear – These controlling leaders always believe the sky is falling. They see the glass as “half empty” and don’t want to take too many risks or chances. When everything is under their control they feel a sense of security.

I don’t know that any of us can answer this question as it applies to every leader, but these are some theories I’d suggest.

Have you ever worked with a controlling leader? Anything you’d add to my list?

I believe in challenging leaders, so here goes. Leader, do you have controlling tendencies? (We all do to some extent.) Do any of these apply to you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “4 Ways a Leader Becomes Controlling

  1. Ron,
    Thanks for this post and for the tips abut how to stop being controlling.

    When I have learned to let go and stop be controlling I have actually felt a sense of release. All of a sudden the pressure and desire for control goes away. As a result, the people I work with get to shine and do their best work.

    Thanks for sharing this post and for reminding us to not be controlling. :-)

  2. Wow – this is quite convicting Ron! I have seen at least three of the four truths presented here at work in my life over the years. I firmly believe underlying all of these principles is the hidden, sinister face of pride. Pride is most deceitful when he couches himself behind all of the "good works" he is doing for God or business. Thank you for this article…it has already helped me.

  3. Scary thing is , this type of leadership can be so subtle , you might not recognize it until you are already burned out. It is not always overtly abusive, and more damaging when it seems to fly under the wire for a while. I would also add "manipulate people and situations in a subtle way" or something like that, to your list.