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10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

Whether you are the CEO or the most junior person in the organization, we all have managers who exert power over us. A controlling boss makes you dread going into the office. On the other hand, working for a leader is often inspiring (and challenging). Here are 10 clues that managers may be controllers in an unhealthy way instead of leaders.

1. They Use Fear To Achieve Their Goals

A controlling boss or manager tends to use their role power (i.e. the power to fire or discipline employees) to achieve their goals. While power matters, effective leaders understand that it is a tool to be use sparingly. Instead, modern leaders influence their staff and persuade them.

Tip: Learn how to leaders master the tools of influence by reading 6 Ways To Influence Others.

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2. They Think They Know Everything

A controlling boss often or always assumes that they know everything. They never ask for opinions from their staff and they do not believe in doing research before making important decisions. In contrast, leaders understand how to be humble at work. For example, a leader may realize that she has a weakness in accounting knowledge or software development. As a result, a leader will seek the advice and recommendations of others in those areas.

3. They Treat People As Pawns

The boss who is fixated on control soon starts to view their staff as pawns. If your manager simply views you as a “pair of hands” to get work done, you are probably working for a controlling manager. Leaders take a different approach. They realize the value in drawing on the full creative powers of people around them. Leaders recognize that treating staff as valuable contributors is a key way to win their respect and improve productivity.

4. They Dominate Meetings

Meetings are an important tool for getting work done in modern organizations. Unfortunately, some managers never learned effective meeting skills. Instead, they simply yell to make a point and issue orders to staff. In contrast, a true leader understand that meetings are concerned with drawing on the wisdom and experience of everyone attending the meeting.

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Tip: Learn the 7 habits of highly effective meetings to become more effective in meetings, even if you have a controlling manager.

5. They Take A “My Way Or The Highway” Approach To Conflict

Conflict is a reality that we deal with in our daily work. Unfortunately, a controlling manager assumes that aggression is only sure path to resolving conflict. This kind of boss views every disagreement as a conflict to be won by them, no matter the cost. In cost, modern leaders use a variety of conflict resolution techniques such as collaborating to find better solutions.

6. They Ignore The Competition

A controlling manager has a hard time with competing companies. At the worst, a controlling manager will resort to immoral efforts to undermine the competition. Other controlling bosses take pride in ignoring the competition. Successful leaders maintain focus on their goals while monitoring the competition. Leaders know that observing competitors gives them new ideas including joint ventures and other forms of cooperation.

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7. They Never Practice Active Listening

Arrogance is one of the hallmarks of a controlling manager and this means they have a lot of room to go when it comes to listening. There’s nothing worse than suggesting ideas and improvements to your boss only to have those ideas ignored. Leaders understand than listening is a skill that requires practice and study. Fortunately, everyone can become better at listening. Use these resources to improve your listening skills:

5 Ways for Leaders To Listen Harder by Michael Hyatt

Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

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8. They Focus on The Short Term

The controlling manager is often concerned with the short term. They have little interest in anything beyond this week. Their need for control undermines their ability to plan and think about the long term needs of their department and the organization. Leaders take a completely different perspective. They start with long term goals first and then they ask their staff to help them achieve their goals. The long term perspective means a greater interest in new ideas and less interest in micro-managing the details.

9. They Never Inspire People With Their Own Example

Managers driven by the need to control rarely look for ways to lead by example. In contrast, let’s consider the inspiring example of Winston Churchill. During the First World War, he had a senior leadership role in the British government. When he was forced out of office, he decided to return to the field. He actually went to the front line and led soldiers in battle. His willingness to lead by example in war and expose himself to danger shows one way to inspire people by your example.

Tip: Read about Winston Churchill’s approach to life: The Churchill School of Adulthood – Lesson #7: Work Like a Slave; Command Like a King; Create Like a God.

10. They Are Unable To Work Through A Crisis

A boss who focuses on control is rarely able to work through a crisis. They have little ability to manage the unexpected in life. In fact, some controlling managers simply freeze in a crisis. It’s a sad state of affairs that hurts them and the rest of the organization. Leaders, on the other hand, know that life is full of unpredictable challenges and situations (10 Challenges Leaders Always Face And How To Deal With Them). They stay focused on taking care of their people and coming up with solutions. All in all, working with a leader gives you a greater sense of confidence.

Featured photo credit: Hand Thumb / Geralt via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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