Neither a Micro-Manager Nor a Control Freak Be

by: Chris Barrett (VP Engineering)

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” — Kenneth Blanchard

Something that I don’t see taught much to new managers is the concept of situational leadership.  It’s a shame because more leaders should be aware of it.  I won’t explain situational leadership in detail since there are many sources to learn about it, but if you lead people, it’s an important concept to understand.

The gist of situational leadership is to provide people with direction that is appropriate to their skill level.  It seems such a simple thing, but interpersonal problems frequently develop between managers and staff because of the lack of understanding of this principle.

Nothing will annoy a senior person more that explaining in painful detail what (and how) you want a task done as if they were an inexperienced employee.  They might put up with this approach a few times but pretty soon you’ll get a reputation as a “micro-manager” or a “control freak”.  I’ve seen talented staff leave companies simply to get away from perfectly nice people that are unable to grasp situational leadership.

On the flip side, completely delegating a task to someone who has little relevant knowledge is unfair and could be a disaster in the making.  The victim will no doubt feel frustrated and it is likely that the work will be completed so poorly that it will need to be redone.  This failure reflects poorly on you as a manager as well.

Managers sometimes forget that the people they lead are not machines and have varying levels of maturity that must be accommodated. Granted, in certain cases, it may be difficult to assess someone’s capabilities when facing a new task.  Similarly, recognizing when you need to actively “sell” a direction to someone versus simply assigning a task can also be challenging. It requires a good understanding of the person’s motivation.  But making the effort to adapt your management style to the individual and the situation will make an enormous difference in the attitude and success of staff members over the long run.

Practice situational leadership and if you’re still known as a “micro-manager”, trust me, it will have more to do with your stature than your style of management!

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