One Simple Question Leaders Must Ask

“You’ll tell yourself anything you have to, to pretend that you’re still the one in control.”      – Jodi Picoult

When it comes to personal relationships – whether at work, home, or in the community – there is one response that consistently hinders progress; in fact, it generally creates unnecessary conflict and push back.

Often the particular pattern goes unacknowledged although it’s affect is clearly unproductive.

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Conor Keller via Compfight

Very early in life this inclination is tried and tested … discovered and developed UNLESS strong training is provided regarding a better approach.  Can you remember?

It takes some of us a lifetime to appreciate how futile this strategy really is in the pursuit of future success with others.

This behavior can be driven by anxiety, anger, resentment, frustration, impatience, guilt, feelings of inadequacy and other fear-based emotions.

What is it?

This unproductive behavior is the need to control.

What Control?

By control I mean those efforts designed to make people behave in the way that you want them to behave. It is those unproductive efforts that limit another person’s freedom to act.

I am not referring to control associated with policies, procedures or matters of law.

Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics, and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people.

This conversation is limited to leadership; the relationship challenge of the everyday, ordinary, working together variety with the goal of high contribution and productivity.

Consider these shades of meaning the Encarta Thesaurus offers:

  • manage (v.) – organize, be in charge of, run, have power over, be in command of, direct
  • power (n.) – jurisdiction, rule, domination
  • rule (v.) – manipulate, influence, dominate, oppress, have a hold over, hold sway over, dictate
  • restrain (v.) – keep under control, keep in check, hold back, rein in, contain
  • monitor (v.) – check, regulate, inspect, limit restrict
  • influence (n.) – command, say, sway

When was the last time you appreciated someone’s attempt to control you? To manage, hold power over you, rule over you, restrain or monitor you? However, to be influenced by another … that’s a different story.

So here’s the simple question to ask before that important meeting or before you make that call or when experiencing conflict or frustration with someone and you are about to engage …

What do I want, control or influence?

Do I want to TRY to make this person or these people behave in a certain way – the way I want them to behave?  Or do I want to lead, guide, direct or influence the situation?

Control or influence?

Yes, leadership is influence.

What do you want (here), attempted control or influence?


What do you think?


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2 Responses to “One Simple Question Leaders Must Ask”

  1. Thanks for dropping by Alyssa and glad you enjoyed the read.

  2. This was precisely the answer I’d been searching for. Amazing blog. Incredibly inspirational! Your posts are so helpful and detailed. The links you feature are also very useful too. Thanks a lot.

Tags: , , , , , Posted in Communication, Leadership Development, Personal Relationships, Personal Success |

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 8:37 am and is filed under Communication, Leadership Development, Personal Relationships, Personal Success. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.