When we use control and leadership in the same sentence, our brows start to furrow. We see controlling behavior as an anathema to empowerment–something to be summarily eradicated, not embraced.
Well, yes, sort of.
Controlling behavior in leadership–when used within relationships–is clearly bad. The world doesn’t need more micro-managers, we have plenty. But make the distinction clear: when used within relationships is the qualifier.
Personally controlling the controllable is something altogether different. And no, I’m not simply playing with words. Let me explain…
Relationships notwithstanding, there is a lot going on in a typical manager’s world. Changes, innovations, developing people, idiotic boss demands… the list goes on. Add to that the occasional “he’s touching me!” and we see quickly that the old, tired phrase “control is just an illusion” is neither old nor tired enough. In fact, it’s still pretty damned active.
There are so many things–most things–over which leadership has little or no control, that for those things we can control, we should do so viciously and purposefully. Our own behavior, for example. The feedback I give others… whether I decide to mentor someone or not… how I act/react to challenges–do I show resilience, modeling that behavior for others, or do I run around shrieking and pulling my hair?
We don’t control much in the big scheme of things, but we do control more than we often think. Grab those things you do control, make sure they happen as you want them to, and save the mental and emotional bandwidth for those things where control is simply a distant mirage, making us believe that water is just over the next sand dune.