Leading without control is a very common challenge I hear from my clients. They have to get results and they are reluctant to let go of the reins. This may be the fear of being let down or simply, controlling has worked well for them in the past. It often results in a misguided conclusion. I either get results by taking control or I compromise and accept less than ideal outcomes.
We can no longer rely on what worked in the past
I’ve learned it is necessary to lead without controlling and if done well, it leads to excellent results. We don’t need to compromise. Let’s start with why leading with control is so important. Our business environment is becoming more complex and this demands a new style of leadership. We can no longer rely on the historical cause and effect relationships. What worked in the past may not work in the future.
When we know what will work in the future, we hone the process and then repeat it. This requires control and leading with control fits well. When the future is unpredictable, we have to continually test to see what works. Tops down control is usually not the best answer because leaders are too far from the action. What worked for them in the past probably won’t work today. They need to adopt an adaptive leadership style. This means learning through others by letting go of control.
The basics of leading without control
So how do you do this and not let everything go awry? The first thing is to set boundaries. They define the scope we can play within and what is out of bounds. They act like guardrails. When they are in place we can move faster with lower risk of driving off the road. Boundaries provide certainty and increase a team’s confidence to take action.
The second thing is to adopt the practice of ‘leader as coach’. When leaders coach, they engage those around them and generate commitment to move forward together. They provide clarity about where we are going and take a supporting role to help the team get there. They don’t tell them how to get there. Remember, what worked in the past may not work now. They stay involved, ask questions, challenge ideas and help the team find their way. If the team faces a barrier, they don’t take over, they support them to find a solution.
‘Leader as coach’ isn’t simple and takes learning and practice. When done well, it is transformational. The team or organization take responsibility, their engagement rises and performance increases. Work becomes fun as does the leaders role.
Are you trying to lead with control or are you leading by coaching?