The Real Focus of Successful Leaders
Control, for the most part, is illusion.
What happens when you try to control something outside your control?
Control as manipulation:
Attempts to control things outside our power – like people – always results in manipulation.
- Bully. Threats, anger, belittling, and guilt are all bullying.
- Isolation. Hiding in the office is a childish attempt to control things you don’t like.
- Avoid or procrastinate. Avoidance is weakness grasping for control.
- Promote self-doubt. Insecure people are easily manipulated. Keep people uncertain, insecure, and in the dark.
- Limit. Make people feel their only options are acquiescence, agreement, and ratification.
- Punish or reward.
- Pressure. Set artificial deadlines for others, rather than with others, for example.
Successful leaders choose goals within their control:
Results are produced by behaviors.
Focus on behaviors that produce results.
Make commitments that describe behaviors.
- Result – close two sales. Goal – call ten clients.
- Result – build a positive culture with gratitude. Goal – give one personal affirmation every day.
- Result – maintain forward focus. Goal – end all conversations with, “What’s next.”
Don’t commit to goals that are outside your control.
Leadership goal: Engage in behaviors that enable others to take action.
Leaders ask themselves, “How do my behaviors influence others?”
The challenging questions of leadership include:
- What must I do? Don’t hide behind what you want others to do.
- Who do I aspire to become? Aspiration for others is often a distracting smoke screen.
- How might I serve in ways that energize, enable, and release others?
You can influence others; you can’t control them. Successful leaders focus on behaviors that influence the choices, commitments, and behaviors of others.
How might leaders focus more on behaviors within their control?
In our Lost Dutchman teambuilding game, tabletops have the need to exchange Resource Cards, giving up what they do not need to get what they do need, based on their planning and decisions. Part of this is a formal exchange, but teams can also exchange cards between the tabletops.
New facilitators always ask if trading between tables is allowed. The reality is, HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT??
If you had a rule that said they couldn’t, and their “survival” was at stake, would anyone really think that they would not trade? Occasionally, we will debrief on this point. You cannot control what you cannot control, so why put in some kind of rule? What you need are clear instructions, clear goals and objectives and COLLABORATION and even some innovative, rule-breaking thinking in order to optimize results.
So many organizations need more engagement and innovative thinking, as well as more collaboration and communications across the normal barriers in order to generate more intrinsic motivation and ideas for improvement. Attempts at control work against all the potential positives.
I blogged about “herding cats and frogs” a while back, and included some videos and some cartoons. For me, doing that is a lot like trying to control things.
Have more FUN out there. If you let go of the controls of a small airplane, it will generally right itself and fly straight and normal. It is the attempt to control things that causes all the correction and over-correction and the eventual crash!
Over the last 2 years I have been challenged with encountering for the first time in my informal and formal leader career with a team member that can be categorized as “Perfectionist” (pardon the stereotype but needed for this post). A different kind of Perfectionist than I had met before. While my experience had been with individuals that push themselves to the brink of exhaustion (mental and physical) in pursue of “Perfect”, this time I encountered someone that expects “Perfection” in others. A bright, assertive and driven individual with great potential. An influencer due to how articulated and dedicated she is. In my observation and experience, however, this “pseudo perfectionist” is limiting her true growth by “hiding” behind what others do that is “not perfect”, constantly expecting her job satisfaction to come from outside of herself – something you can’t control. There has not been an awareness of that, in spite of frank conversations and mentorship.
I was caught into the manipulation of wanting to “be perfect” for her, to meet expectations that made sense for the most part. However, there is never enough within this manipulative scenario. We talk about “doing it right” as opposed to “doing the right thing”. Do we go “by the book” or do we do “what moved the needle closer to influencing behavior”?
To anyone driven and intended to increase their self-awareness, be careful not to be caught in the manipulation as such. The change in behaviour in self then must be a larger ownership that “perfectionism” is the enemy of vulnerability, growth and sustainable leadership. IMHO!
There is a big difference between being in control and being controlling. The latter happens when you lose the ability to do the former.
Most of us experienced poor leadership. Often it is a great worker who is “promoted” to supervisor manager, with the hopes that they will clone or multiply their good qualities. Or it is the ambitious person wanting recognition, or the competition of getting a position in the company without the responsibility of caring for people. Sometimes it is just a family or friend promotion that gets filled by someone incompetent or uncaring.
When we have an opportunity to step into a leadership position, keep the humility of awareness that there is so much you do not know, and seek to develop your people skills.
Fantastic post! It’s easy to fall into control behaviors, but you have provided easy steps to mitigate and get back on track.
Excellent post! Clear, concise, addressing the “real issues” of winning people’s hearts, not just acquiescence. Remember to Lead, not Manage! Inspire others with common vision, not threaten with punishment vs. rewards.
Gosh, if only the people at work will follow this, the world is a better place.