Five Things Your Controlling Leader Won’t Tell You Part One

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Understanding the way your boss thinks and responding as a servant leader, or in this case servant follower, can improve your workplace experience. In part one of this blog; I will share five “secrets” of a controlling leader. Part two will contain some suggestions for responding to a controlling leader as a servant follower.

You have likely heard the statements, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” According to Gallup, poor employee/manager relationships have been a top reason for employees leaving workplaces for years. The Work Institute’s 2018 Employee Retention Report finds that more than 77% of employees who left their jobs could’ve been retained by their employers. Since poor supervision is a primary reason for employee turnover and people behaviors don’t change overnight, I have identified five things a controlling leader may be keeping from you. Understanding how to respond to these "secrets" will help you navigate through difficult work interactions and perhaps extend your time in your current job.

Secret #1: They Are Afraid.

Underneath a tough exterior, your controlling leader may be afraid they’re not good enough. Deep down they fear they won’t be trusted or respected if they’re truly known. So, they work hard to maintain an image of togetherness. The leader’s efforts to maintain cover and mask areas that might suggest weakness, leads to more controlling behavior. To the employee, this makes the leader appear disengaged, unauthentic and untrustworthy.

Secret #2: They Want Your Feedback… If it’s Positive.

Even the best leaders at times have difficulty accepting honest constructive feedback. Controlling leaders struggle a bit more than most. Accepting feedback is a desirable leadership quality, so controlling leaders have become adept at appearing open to feedback. Since poor feedback threatens the controlling leader’s ability to dictate the narrative of their environment, it’s often rejected.

Secret #3: They Don’t Trust You.

A controlling leader practices hands-on supervision, is less willing to delegate, and leans on power and control tendencies. These behaviors demonstrate not only fear but a lack of trust. Perhaps the distrust stems from seeing you as a competitor. Delegating to you might give you an advantage.

You’re being more aware of their duties might also expose their shortcomings.

Secret #4 They Accept Credit for Your Work.

Because appearing competent and capable are essential to the needs of the fearful controlling leader, they’re more prone to hoard information and take credit for the efforts of others. Controlling leaders are generally successful at managing up and are often viewed by their superiors as competent, highly capable and operationally sound. Elevating your accomplishments likely threatens their own sense of worth, and hiding your achievements neutralizes you as a potential threat.

Secret #5: They Would Rather Leave Than Change.

Image is extremely important to the controlling leader. The effort to maintain control over their image and the many variables that come with leading people is difficult. Eventually, controlling leaders find the effort exhausting and impossible to maintain and eventually seek a fresh start with a new employer who they feel will appreciate their vision and expertise. Sometimes a leader’s departure is the lone saving grace for an employee who labors under a controlling leadership approach.

Malcolm A. Hankins is a public servant, non-profit chair and keynote speaker. His focus is on ministry, leadership effectiveness, employee relations, and community engagement.

Be sure to check our blog page next week for part two of Five Things Your Controlling Leader Won’t Tell You.