Featured Article

Five Ways to Shift from Control-Freak to Servant-Leader post image

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a natural doer and achiever.

Those of us that are natural doers and achievers have the tendency to want to exert a measure of control over most situations, particularly those in the workplace. We have a hard time just letting things be and unfolding naturally without the force of our will taking over.

That force of human will, effort and focused intention can be positive, but not at any expense.

I have a conversation coming up with a client who is ending a short term engagement and we’re going to discuss what’s next.  The “what’s next” conversation also includes the investment he’ll make in our work.  I’ve been ruminating on this conversation for days and playing it through in my mind. My initial reaction is to try to figure out how I can control the outcome because I truly believe that what I have to offer will be beneficial to the client. This process of thinking and re-thinking started to cause me a great deal of stress.

I shared the situation with one of my coaches and she asked me, “How would Jeff, the servant-leader, show up?”

As doers and achievers, we often create rules and expectations for ourselves and hold ourselves to a measure of control that is unachievable.  The rules we create might include…

  • “This situation should work out in exactly the same way a similar one did a month ago”
  • “I should eloquently make my point and convince them to see it my way”
  • “This interaction should set me up for something for bigger and better in the future”
  • “I have to tackle this in a certain way because that is how others are doing it”

We craft in our minds how conversations and situations will unfold based upon these rules and the result is that we’re attached to a specific outcome – we’re not truly serving.

We convince ourselves that we can both serve and control.

We can’t!

Attempting to control the outcome before it even begins says, “I don’t trust the person” and “I don’t believe serving them will produce a good outcome.”  We don’t actually feel this way, but it’s the message we send to ourselves and those who are aware of our “control freak” ways.

Again, back to the question my coach asked me.  “How would a servant-leader show up?”

  1. Trust that you and those involved will show up and bring their best
  2. Show up prepared AND super-curious about the people and the situation
  3. Listen deeply and ask open-ended questions about what they want to create in the situation/relationship
  4. Acknowledge those involved by telling them who they are to you and what you see as possible
  5. Be OK with uncertainty and unanswered questions

A servant-leader shows up powerfully with this type of open heart while acknowledging that control is sometimes called for.  As leaders, we’re responsible to ask for things like integrity, quality and everyone’s best. Servant-leaders hold these up for everyone and exerts control when they’re missing.

What situations or conversations do you have coming up that you’ve been dwelling on and attempting to control the outcome?

I invite you to test the five points above in this situation and report back the outcome in the comments below.

Another great place to share your insights and learn from others is our private Facebook group, The Servant Leader in Action. Click here to request access to the group and continue the learning and growing as a servant-leader.

Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

What People Are Saying

There are no comments yet, why not be the first to leave a comment?

Join The Conversation