King and a bunch of Pawns

Control, Power, and Leadership

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

In a previous post, we spoke about control and developing leaders. We stated that “Control isn’t control until you give it away.” If you are running a large organization or even a small “one person shop,” you will find it advantageous to have others thinking about new ways of doing things. We want suppliers, associates, affiliates and employees to get out of the box and think.

So what is control? According to the Miriam Webster on-line dictionary, Control is defined as:

  • to direct the behavior of (a person or animal) : to cause (a person or animal) to do what you want
  • to have power over (something)
  • to direct the actions or function of (something) : to cause (something) to act or function in a certain way

Here’s the problem with control when it comes to leadership. By keeping control to yourself, you will be required to make all the decisions. By definition, you are now the bottleneck in the organization. You are now the reason for lack of creativity, progress and the major cause of employee disengagement. On the other hand, if you have not clearly expressed the values, vision and mission of the organization, it is dangerous to give control to others. I didn’t say it was easy! It is simple though; no one of us is as smart as all of us. Leaders create a safe environment and insist on developing others as leaders – that means giving control away. Real leaders make sure their team members have a complete sense of autonomy.

What about power? According to the same source, power is:

  • the ability or right to control people or things
  • political control of a country or area
  • a person or organization that has a lot of control and influence over other people or organizations

See the problem? We feel powerful when we think we are in control. Another conundrum. To be powerful, you must not use your positional authority of control over others – with exceptions of course. The Taoists have it right when they say (and I paraphrase) “when properly lead, the people say ‘look what WE have done’. ”

So true leadership is creating a safe environment, building technical competency, providing clarity of values, vision and mission and focusing on developing others to be leaders in their own right. Autonomy. It’s a beautiful thing. If everyone in your organization is technically competent, is immersed in the culture and is thinking, you are unbeatable.

(Note: Leadership guru David Marquet has published a fabulous workbook to assist you in implementing intent based leadership. It is a companion to his best selling book Turn the Ship Around! Here’s a link to: Turn Your Ship Around!: A Workbook for Implementing Intent-Based Leadership in Your Organization)