Last week, I insisted my daughter do something the way I wanted it done and in a timeframe to suit me. She pushed back—hard—and I found myself wondering whether I was stuck in a ‘command and control approach that wasn’t working for her or me.

Here are five indicators that you might be favouring command and control at work, when another approach might serve you best.

  • Strong need to check everything. While checking on delegated work is a valuable leadership behaviour, trusting your team to get the work done creates the conditions for team members to make autonomous contributions. A leader who does not trust the team and who needs to check everything will stifle creativity and engagement within their team.
  • High detail focus. Detail is important. The right level of detail is even more important. As a leader progresses up the corporate ladder, less detail and more ‘big picture’ thinking is required.
  • Desire for sole responsibility. Accountability is at the heart of leadership. A paradox of leadership is balancing being in control with the responsibility of releasing control.
  • High need for personal achievement. Performance is important, and as a leader, the performance of the team matters more than your individual performance.
  • High need for power. Power is central to leadership. Being comfortable with your own authority as a leader is crucial for ensuring people follow you. Leaders who constantly exert their power over others limit responsibility in their people, resulting in disengagement.

If you ticked four or more indicators, I recommend increasing your leadership flexibility, beginning today. Directing may secure compliance, but not ownership and commitment.

If you ticked two or indicators, get some candid feedback from those who work closely with you – you may also need to build your leadership flexibility.

Command and control does not translate across all leadership scenarios and may disengage team members. A coaching approach will enlist others in their own outcomes, inspire discretionary effort, and build team capacity.

Have an extraordinary day.


Note: This blog is based on my latest book, Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders. Get the book to learn how to support leaders who suffer from ‘Controller – command and control’, as well as 11 other leadership derailers.


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