Control, we all love it. As human beings we like to think that we have the power to create our destiny. This is especially true when it comes to the business world, because we often see control as coming hand in hand with power. However, with today's ever-changing world, the more you tame your controlling tendency, the more successful you will be.

This idea that less control means more success is counter-intuitive. Our brains are our partners in our need for control. In the book Stumbling on Happiness Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says that our frontal lobes allow us to simulate the future in our heads. We are led to believe by our brains that we can predict what will make us happy. Gilbert points out that contrary to what we may think, we are not able to predict the future nor are we able to predict what will make us happy. This goes hand in hand with control. We often think that if we can control what is happening then we can shape the future in the way we want--but that isn't so.

As much as we would like to direct the future, our lives are far too chaotic to begin to be able to know all the variables at play. The business world is one particular arena that is getting less predictable by the day. Because of that the ability to let go, go with the flow, be open, curious and agile is what is needed in contrast to a controlling and rigid perspective.

So if you want to be a powerful, successful leader, you need to identify your control freak tendencies and let them go. Here are five signs of a control freak--if three or more of these signs resonate with you, it may be time to re-evaluate how you approach your work and your world.

  1. You think you need to come up with all the ideas and your job is to pass them on to your team.

You believe that your experience and your knowledge is what is best needed for the types of decisions that are made in your job. Others that work below you are the ones who simply execute--you do not see them as partners.


  1. You believe that your way of working is THE way to work and expect everyone around you to mimic your schedule.

You know what schedule and environment works best for you, and you believe that this applies to everyone on your team. You don't trust that others take full responsibility for their results, and this pushes you to control when and how your team shows up.


  1. You do more talking than listening when working with your team.

You view meetings and interactions with your team members as a time to tell them everything that you see is happening and what that means in terms of how they prioritize their work and their goals. You talk a lot because you inherently believe that your job is to tell them what to do, to ensure the job gets done in the right way.


  1. You are more often decisive than curious.

In your mind, being curious means being less efficient. You know what needs to be done, and you want everyone to do it your way. The faster everyone else agrees with you, the sooner the work will get done.


  1. Your team can suggest ideas and solutions but the final decision always has to come from you.

You outwardly encourage your team to spend time coming up with ideas and solutions, but deep down you don't really trust that they know as much as you do. Therefore you want to keep the control in check and have the final call on all decisions. Just knowing that you have that final say gives you comfort.

While we all seek control, ultimately it's an illusion. Nobody can control everything, and the need to control takes away from others' ability to thrive. Nothing kills motivation more than being around a control freak.

While changing habits is no easy task, think of the impact you can have by harnessing the genius power of a team rather than just yourself. As much as we love thinking we know it all, it's impossible for one person to beat the wisdom of a crowd.

Published on: Sep 17, 2015
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