Control Freak

It’s no secret.  I like to be in control.  I like to be in charge.  And as a leader I’m naturally wired for this.  The danger for me is what I consider another “grey” leadership issue.

As a leader (who is prone to control), one of the most grey issues for me is knowing when I am controlling rather than guiding with clear direction.  As the leader I am responsible for casting the vision and helping the staff stay in alignment with it.  This means that I have to give clear guidance in decision making so that the organization stays in line with vision.  The challenge is that oftentimes rather than giving guidance I tend to control or dictate.  I know the danger of misalignment and that we are always one decision away from starting to veer from it, so I want to control tightly instead of empowering other leaders in the organization to make decisions.

Controlling is the default.  It’s a fear-based reaction.

As leaders I think we have to recognize this tension in ourselves and consciously choose guiding vs. controlling.

By guiding you help your team learn HOW to make decisions that are consistent with vision.  By controlling you never give them this option.  They simply become your mouthpiece (and they become bitter, frustrated & unmotivated because of it).

Agree?  Disagree?  Please tell me I’m not alone on this one.

You may also like

No comments

  • Ron Edmondson July 8, 2009  

    Jenni, I’m with you on this.

    Two questions:

    1. Have you done Strengths Finders and does this line up with your strengths? Every strength can have a negative implication. Learning to use it for the positive is key.

    2. (This is a personal question) Do you carry this over into your marriage?

    I think you are an awesome leader!

  • Dennis Richards July 8, 2009  

    Excellent post. As leaders we should guide, inspire, cast vision and empower. Control zapps are people, empowerment inspires them.

  • Cheri Gregory July 8, 2009  

    Heya Jenni!

    I’m a Choleric, so I’m with you all the way when it comes to control issues!


    This really hit me. I’m in the process of reflecting back on an especially difficult year in the classroom. In the midst of things, I failed to recognize fear as the culprit. Only in hindsight do I see its fingerprints everywhere!

    I am typically blindsided by control issues when I am in a rush: trying to “do it all” rather than asking God to guide me to what He has in mind, focusing on all the tasks before me rather than the people God has placed in my life.

    “Ruthlessly eliminating hurry from my life” is now a daily goal so that I take the time to pause and reflect throughout the day. (Far, far more easily said than done!)

  • @B_rewster July 8, 2009  

    I wrestle with this as well. You have to give your people enough room to be the “Them” God created, and use their gifts, but never lose site of the vision. I think it is different with every individual. Some people can thrive on freedom, some people need CLEAR, DAILY, direction.

    You are a great leader. Ask your staff, they will let you know whats up. 🙂

  • Chris July 8, 2009  

    I agree COMPLETELY!!!! I have had the privilege of working WITH (not under) great leaders, and UNDER (not with) leaders that THOUGHT they were great. This is what I have learned:

    Great leaders are humble and know that they are not great at every aspect of leadership, so they hire others that cover the areas they are weak in to make a strong whole. Then they let them lead and bring them a long side, accepting that their staff has wisdom they do not have, when planning directions of the company. They are not intimidated by other great leaders.
    They also realize that their MAIN PURPOSE is to be a servant to those under them (as Jesus was), not to “lead” as the world defines leadership.

    Good for you for putting this out there!! I hope that other leaders will read this and gain wisdom from your openness!

  • Brian Dishon July 8, 2009  


    You are right my friend. My simple point I make often with team is – let’s argue and agree on goal, then how you get there is up to you, but know if you miss, not all will be fun. This is my little 2+2 rule I use to manage a team. There is an infinate amount of ways to arrive at the answer 4, none of them more correct than the other, some perhaps more slow, but not more correct. So in managing I like to focus on the correct result (4) and then help guide the appropriate way to get to 4. I might be as simple as 2+2, however John over there might be 9-5, same # of steps, easy to get to and just as correct. If I mandate 2+2 is the way to get to 4 that causes frustration, bitterness, lack of desire. But letting them know you are OK with their bizarre Square Root of 16 method at arriving at 4 empowers them and teaches them to think on their own and develop their own path which will lead to consistent success over a period of time.

  • Dad July 8, 2009  

    You coundn’t be more correct, and all the comments are great. The fact that you recognize this makes you the leader you are. A great leader surrounds themself with other great people. The stronger the force around you the better and easier your job is. Your job as the leader is to keep everyone going in the same direction while letting them perform on there own. Keep up the great job, you know how proud I am of you.

  • Nate July 9, 2009  

    Wow this is tough.

    Interestingly enough, while not exactly on the same trail, I had a situation recently that’s in the same ballpark.

    This week I’ve been working on planning out some massive changes in our kids programming that will be taking place this weekend (our normal Liquid Kids areas have been rented out for another function, so we have to use the movie theater next door).

    There are huge logistical hurdles to jump, and I’ve been working hard to make sure that everything is in place for Sunday.

    Unfortunately, I work at our other campus.

    Being a control freak, I naturally want to be onsite for this weekend. But I have to be at the campus I work at.

    I just have to trust that our volunteers will have everything under control. After all, I was a volunteer once too, and I know how good it feels to be trusted with big tasks like these.