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Exercise control without being controlling

There are two distinct leadership styles that I know many of us can relate to: (1) the controller and (2) the self-controlled. Which one are you? Let’s find out. There are three ways we motivate people … through guilt, flattery or inspiration. Controlling leaders (knowingly or unknowingly) frequently rely on guilt techniques to get the job done by manipulating people and circumstances to their advantage. Do these statements sound familiar? … “But we really need you”“everyone else is helping”“you really owe It to us.” As we all know cooperation by coercion is not true cooperation…it may prompt a desired action but it certainly does not always prompt the desired result. People generally know when they are being controlled and usually don’t submit easily, the outcome … intensified tension in the relationship.

Come to think of it … even flattery can be a negative motivator. What do you think about these statements? … “You’ll get a lot of recognition for this”“everyone says you do this so well”“all the credit will go to you.” Be careful how you use these statements as they could be considered praise placebos and one-handed applause. It is important to reinforce individual or team effort with honest recognition but don’t hand out a bouquet of plastic roses.

The self-controlled leader on the other hand understands the value of cooperation, teamwork and partnership … he/she is a natural inspiration to others. You can tell a lot about their character by their words and behaviors. Do you recognize any of these?

When self-controlled leaders engage in conversations you hear something like this … “it’s great talking with you”“I can’t wait to get deeper into this topic with you”“Talking with you is always a pleasure.” Not some version of … “we may as well get going with this, I haven’t got all day.”

When self-controlled leaders ask for someone’s opinion you’ll hear … “I would love to get your take on this”“is there anything else you would like to add?” You are not likely to hear … “I am really not interested in what you have to say but I know you are going to say it anyway, so get it over with.”

When self-controlled leaders are insulted you normally hear comeback statements like … “You seem a little anxious/overworked/upset – what can I do to help?”“I like the polite version of you much better.” Certainly not some version of … “keep the insults coming and we will see who has the last laugh.”

Here is a quick reflection check for you.  Select the response that best describes your preference, desire or behavior.  Do you frequently …

  1. Trust people to perform OR do the work yourself because it is faster
  2. Share the full plan or provide information incrementally OR on a need to know basis
  3. Relate well to all kinds of people OR avoid people who challenge you
  4. Hear people out patiently OR interrupt people before you lose your thought
  5. Settle differences with minimum conflict OR need to win no matter the cost
  6. Celebrate wins and successes OR move immediately to the next project
  7. Welcome all feedback OR good news only no bad news or criticisms

Where are most of your responses on the left (self-controlled) or right (controller)?

The naked truth however is … the effectiveness of your leadership style is not evaluated on how you see yourself but other people’s perception of you regardless of how much or how little those perceptions match your own self-image.

So … How would your circle evaluate you?

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