I see it time and time again: the often-accidental belief that leadership means control.
We’ve all known people who just can’t let go of things and often end up overshadowing others, whether colleagues or subordinates, to the point where they’re essentially directly supervising or sometimes even undertaking the work others are meant to be doing. Usually these people are highly competent and pride themselves on being so, hardworking, tightly wound sometimes to the point of being very stressed, and unable to delegate.
Delegating tasks to others and entrusting their success, is often easier said than done. But firstly, these following pointers might help you identify whether you do have control issues or not:
- Not only are you a perfectionist, you believe everyone else should be a perfectionist too, almost always concerning any task or practice, regardless of importance.
- You find it very difficult to be ‘out-of-the-loop’ or to have missing information, even in situations that do not concern you.
- You use criticism as a tool to influence decisions in your favour, further your own agenda, and undermine any potential rivals.
- You see your responsibilities as your domain, and any infringement on those responsibilities as a personal attack on your authority or validity.
- You cannot hand off tasks once you’ve started them, or roles once you’ve occupied them, without feeling loss, even if such handing off is no reflection of your competence.
- You see yourself as someone able to deal with any problems, even if they concern fields out of your expertise.
- To you, no one will ever be quite as competent as you.
Truly delegating tasks to others and allowing them to fulfil their roles unimpeded can be hard for someone who likes control. It is however, pivotal to being a good leader, and a good colleague, and completely necessary in practical terms when managing or working with larger teams.
Here’s some advice for getting into a better mindset that should enable you to let go, and to delegate.
- Accept the world doesn’t revolve around you. People don’t hold you up to the standards you may believe, and they don’t think about you as much as you might think. The chances are your efforts to control those around you aren’t really helping at all, and are alienating others.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable with other people. Not only can this create genuine connection with others, it can also help to soften your attitude toward their own abilities. Many control freaks I’ve come across have underestimated the competence of those around them because they refuse the notion of getting to know them.
- Learn to trust others. Does Richard Branson have to check up on the senior leadership of Virgin’s airline efforts? Of course he doesn’t, and when he was starting out he didn’t have doubts about store managers and assistants. You have to let go and allow others to get on with their duties. Sometimes they will make mistakes, but sometimes so will you. Give people some credit and the space to work under their own direction, and they will respect you for it. Click here to read Richard Branson on Learning to Delegate http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/richard-branson-how-to-delegate-when-launching-a-business
- Know that perfection is not perfect. Attention to detail is a useful trait, but so is being able to complete tasks efficiently. Obsession with making others adhere to your own standards no matter how trivial the tasks comes across as egotistical, and isn’t effective.
Really what is important if you’re a control freak, not just for working better with others but also for your own health, is as said before, letting go. Not all controlling types feel the same levels of stress, but an occupation of time when controlling and influencing others unnecessarily builds up secondary work and makes everyone’s problems your problems. Take a step back and really ask yourself if you need as much control and oversight of other people, and ask if such oversight is actually in your remit. If it isn’t, it’s because it doesn’t need to be.