Effective Leadership and Control
It’s kind of peculiar that both not having enough and trying to take too much cause stress. We explore letting go of what’s not yours to control and taking personal responsibility for what is, on our Fresh Air Fridays programmes.
We’re grateful to Martin Collinson, leadership expert, for contributing this piece on how the senior leaders he coaches look at the world and how their mindset helps them flourish. We think the key point to take away is about understanding that what you can control and what you don’t is crucial to your wellbeing – this applies to all of us, wherever we lead.
I’m very lucky; for the past 25 years I’ve been coaching senior leaders in global organisations – and I’ve learned a lot from them.
One of the things I’ve learned is that the most effective leaders are very clear about what’s important; they don’t sweat the small stuff and they don’t sweat over what they can’t control. They also know that they can only control themselves, what they feel, think, do or say, and that everything they achieve as a leader results from using this control over self, this maturity, to engage, inspire and empower others to act in pursuit of the mission.
In short, they know where they end and someone else begins.
This is vital when it comes to how we handle stress at work. One way to reduce stress is to take responsibility and take action; we human beings generally feel better when we feel in control. However, trying to control something that we can’t actually control is incredibly stressful. Knowing the difference is crucial, and Rule One is that we can’t control other people. We can invite them, influence them, inspire them, but outside of using handcuffs and a Taser, we can’t control them.
When leaders genuinely understand this they stop trying to control everything – and everyone – and seek instead to control themselves and to empower others. Accepting the reality that there are things we have no control over, including other people, makes us more relaxed, resilient, productive – and happier. We also inevitably discover that our relationships become deeper because of trust and that those whom we trust, flourish.
- Notice when and what you try to control. Stop and reflect; choose which you should be focusing on and what you should let go.
- Create a plan to delegate as much of your work as possible. You’re a leader; that’s the job.
- When asked to take on a piece of work immediately ask yourself who you can delegate it to. If there’s no-one you can delegate it to put a plan in place to ensure that next time you are given a similar piece of work you will be able to delegate it. That’s the job.
Effective leaders understand that their role is to lead. As they progress to more senior, complex and demanding roles it is vital that they delegate as much as possible so that they can continue to lead and contribute in a more strategic manner, and so that their team can enjoy the right amount of stretch to enable them to learn and grow.
Be clear about what you can control and what you can’t; you’ll become a better leader, and have much more fun.