10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

By: Bruce Harpham

Whether you are the CEO or the most junior person in the organization, we all have managers who exert power over us. A controlling boss makes you dread going into the office. On the other hand, working for a leader is often inspiring (and challenging). Here are 10 clues that managers may be controllers in an unhealthy way instead of leaders.

  1. They Use Fear To Achieve Their Goals

A controlling boss or manager tends to use their role power (i.e. the power to fire or discipline employees) to achieve their goals. While power matters, effective leaders understand that it is a tool to be use sparingly. Instead, modern leaders influence their staff and persuade them.

  1. They Think They Know Everything

A controlling boss often or always assumes that they know everything. They never ask for opinions from their staff and they do not believe in doing research before making important decisions. In contrast, leaders understand how to be humble at work. For example, a leader may realize that she has a weakness in accounting knowledge or software development. As a result, a leader will seek the advice and recommendations of others in those areas.

  1. They Treat People As Pawns

The boss who is fixated on control soon starts to view their staff as pawns. If your manager simply views you as a “pair of hands” to get work done, you are probably working for a controlling manager.

Leaders take a different approach. They realize the value in drawing on the full creative powers of people around them. Leaders recognize that treating staff as valuable contributors is a key way to win their respect and improve productivity.

  1. They Dominate Meetings

Meetings are an important tool for getting work done in modern organizations. Unfortunately, some managers never learned effective meeting skills. Instead, they simply yell to make a point and issue orders to staff. In contrast, a true leader understand that meetings are concerned with drawing on the wisdom and experience of everyone attending the meeting.

  1. They Take A “My Way Or The Highway” Approach To Conflict

Conflict is a reality that we deal with in our daily work. Unfortunately, a controlling manager assumes that aggression is only sure path to resolving conflict. This kind of boss views every disagreement as a conflict to be won by them, no matter the cost. In cost, modern leaders use a variety of conflict resolution techniques such as collaborating to find better solutions.

  1. They Ignore The Competition

A controlling manager has a hard time with competing companies. At the worst, a controlling manager will resort to immoral efforts to undermine the competition. Other controlling bosses take pride in ignoring the competition.

Successful leaders maintain focus on their goals while monitoring the competition. Leaders know that observing competitors gives them new ideas including joint ventures and other forms of cooperation.

  1. They Never Practice Active Listening

Arrogance is one of the hallmarks of a controlling manager and this means they have a lot of room to go when it comes to listening. There’s nothing worse than suggesting ideas and improvements to your boss only to have those ideas ignored.

Leaders understand than listening is a skill that requires practice and study. Fortunately, everyone can become better at listening.

  1. They Focus on The Short Term

The controlling manager is often concerned with the short term. They have little interest in anything beyond this week. Their need for control undermines their ability to plan and think about the long term needs of their department and the organization.

Leaders take a completely different perspective. They start with long term goals first and then they ask their staff to help them achieve their goals. The long term perspective means a greater interest in new ideas and less interest in micro-managing the details.

  1. They Never Inspire People With Their Own Example

Managers driven by the need to control rarely look for ways to lead by example. In contrast, let’s consider the inspiring example of Winston Churchill. During the First World War, he had a senior leadership role in the British government. When he was forced out of office, he decided to return to the field. He actually went to the front line and led soldiers in battle.

His willingness to lead by example in war and expose himself to danger shows one way to inspire people by your example.

  1. They Are Unable To Work Through A Crisis

A boss who focuses on control is rarely able to work through a crisis. They have little ability to manage the unexpected in life. In fact, some controlling managers simply freeze in a crisis. It’s a sad state of affairs that hurts them and the rest of the organization.

Leaders, on the other hand, know that life is full of unpredictable challenges and situations. They stay focused on taking care of their people and coming up with solutions. All in all, working with a leader gives you a greater sense of confidence.

About Amr Badran

An Egyptian Business Consultant and Corporate Trainer since 1997. I've trained on Management, Leadership and Soft Skills to thousands of people from many nationalities, backgrounds and professions in more than 10 countries across the Middle and Far East. Holder of an MBA and a Candidate for Doctorate in Business. Find more about my Management and Personal Skills Courses at AmrBadran.com and feel free contacting me at Amr@AmrBadran.com
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