5 Reasons Leaders Tend to Micromanage

mean boss

Most of the time micromanaging is not a positive characteristic of leadership. I have written previously about times I do micromanage, but these are rare. 

In fact, I avoid it if possible – some on our team may say to a fault. There are times to manage closely, such as when you’re protecting a vision, but for the most part it disrupts progress more than it promotes.

As I work in the ministry world, however, it seems very common for micromanagement to be present. It could be a pastor who wants to control everything or a church governance that controls the pastor. And, by observation, I’ve learned there are common excuses for micromanagement.

Here are some reasons leaders resort to micromanaging:

Fear

It could be fear of a number of things. Fear it will be done wrong. Fear others will think the leader is not doing their job. Fear someone else may get credit instead of the leader. When a leader feels another person may receive recognition greater than the leader – he or she is more likely to try to navigate every outcome. 

Insecurity

I’ve noticed when a leader is feels he or she doesn’t have what it takes to lead the team or organization – or becomes overwhelmed – when things are going badly in the church or organization – a leader often begins to control the actions of people around them. They become more strong-arm managers than visionary leaders. 

Wrong team members

When the leader doesn’t feel he or she can trust the team members, he or she is likely to lead activities normally delegated. This can sometimes fall into the valid reason for micromanagement, but it shouldn’t last long without changes being made – either changing the team or helping the team improve. 

Bad vision

The problem may not be the people – or even the leader – but the leader is pushing people to accomplish something no one buys into or simply won’t work. Sometimes it’s time to move forward, but the leader is hanging onto a sinking ship – often refusing to admit it’s sinking. This is one I’ve seen many times in declining churches. Something needs changing, but the leader refuses to do the hard work and change. 

Power

Sadly, this is possibly the most common reason I have seen for micromanaging – and even more sadly is when I’ve seen it in the church. Some leaders relish in the idea of holding power and so, to keep the sense of control, they use their position’s authority to control rather than empower.

Leaders, are you guilty of micromanaging? Do any of these reasons apply to you?

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

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19 thoughts on “5 Reasons Leaders Tend to Micromanage

  1. I reported to a very good leader once, who went through a phase of micromanaging a project I was leading. I asked him what his concerns were and it turned out that he was being hammered on from above.

    This got me to thinking how important it is that I, as a subordinate, be sensitive to what's happening above my supervisor, because The Downhill Flow rule will never be rescinded.

    I tend to too bold in showing initiative and sometimes, in the words of Bill Oncken, I need to be rethreaded–if for no other reason than helping my supervisor be confident I know who's boss!

  2. So what’s a person (follower) to do if their leader is a control freak and won’t let a qualified person do their job?

  3. I tend to micro-manage at the beginning of an important new task. Other than that, If I have to do someone's job for them, I have the wrong person assigned. If my leader was micro-managing me, I'd first look at myself. Is my performance or lack of causing the problem?

  4. My philosphy is "I can do all things in Christ, but not everything all at once." I don't try to micromanage any more–I'm just not organized enough to do that. I'm sure my in-laws appreciate this lack of controlling–they have no reason for mother-in-law jokes at all.

  5. I definitely have controlling tendencies and I have to work really hard to not let those tendencies get the best of me. My favorite line "learn to let go of control and let others lead." I was facing a situation where I felt like I had to be present for things to go right. Reading your post helped me see that my control freak was trying to rear her ugly. I just need to let go and let others on the team lead and trust it will all work out. Thanks for the reminder.