Fearful Leaders Hoard Control – Courageous Leaders Give Power

Feeling powerful expands possibility, elevates engagement, and enables initiative. Feeling powerless creates weakness, dependence, and fear.

People who feel powerful see opportunity.

People who feel powerless feel threat.

Control freaks make others feel powerless.

Control freaks:

  1. Pretend to be helpful. In reality they’re pushing their own agenda.
  2. Believe others are the problem.
  3. Over-manage.
  4. Know there is only one right way to get things done. Theirs!
  5. Pretend to step back so others can step in. But when something “important” starts happening, they take over.
  6. Pretend to listen. But they already have their minds made up.
  7. View change as threat.

The smile of a control freak is arrogant sympathy in disguise. They feel sorry for all the lesser people.

How to make people feel powerful by giving control:

#1. Prepare people to feel powerful.

  1. How might you stretch and nudge, rather than shove?
  2. What training is appropriate?
  3. What experiences expand capacity?
  4. How might you build on past success?

#2. Describe the playing field.

  1. What values are in play?
  2. What does success look like?
  3. What’s out of bounds?
  4. How much decision-making power do others have?
  5. How often do you want to be kept in the loop?
  6. How does this project fit into the big picture?
  7. How much authority is being delegated?

#3. Honor expressions of power.

  1. Praise people who give input that differs from your approach.
  2. Thank people for taking action, even if it didn’t work out.
  3. Ask, “What are you learning?” Rather than telling people they screwed up.
  4. Ask, “What will you do next time?” when results disappoint.

More suggestions:

#1. Generate options. The more options you have, the safer the path forward seems.

#2. Give choice. After generating options, ask others to make choices.

Choice is an expression of power.

#3. Practice attunement.

Daniel Pink on attunement:

Courageous leaders give power to others. Fearful leaders hoard control.

How might leaders make others feel powerful?