“Command and control” leadership is one of the worst forms of leadership, but it is also the most common.

In this article, I want to discuss why “command and control” leadership is so prevalent and what you can do about it as an individual leader or as an organization.

Fortune 50 Case Study

I recently did some workshops for 100 of a Fortune 50 organization’s top 500 leaders.

Focus: Mindsets → Agility

In these workshops, we covered the connection between mindsets and agility.

Early into the first workshop, I made two quick observations:

  • Despite the fact that they have been focusing on improving agility for over 1.5 years and on mindsets for over 3 years, they didn’t feel like their organization was any more agile than in prior years.
  • They were frustrated because they didn’t feel like they had the ability to be agile

What is preventing agility?

So, I asked them: “What is your organization currently doing or not doing that is preventing it and you from being more agile?”

They responded with the following answers:

  • Micromanagement
  • Top-down leadership
  • More concerned about “hitting numbers” in the short run than doing what is best in the long run

Upon hearing these answers, we summarized that the primary reason why they weren’t more agile was because there is a culture of “command and control” leadership.

Why “Command and Control” Leadership?

To dive into their experience more deeply, I asked them: “Why is there a culture of ‘command and control’ leadership in your organization?

The answer was quick, although multifaceted: FEAR.

We discovered that leaders engaged in “command and control” leadership because they were afraid of:

  • Looking bad
  • Not “hitting numbers”
  • Ambiguity/not being in control
  • Not getting ahead/getting passed up

These fears existed because the organization and its culture socially and perhaps even formally incentivizes its leaders to look good, hit numbers, be in control, and get ahead.

What Can We Learn From This? – Two Lessons

Lesson #1

What similarity do you see in these fears?

They are all associated with protecting and advancing one’s self.

If leaders want to ensure they look good, hit numbers, are in control, and get ahead, what is the natural form of leadership that they will engage in?

You guessed it! “Command and control” leadership.

Lesson #2

Until the organization changes its culture to reduce the fears that leaders have, no amount of agility or even mindset training is going to move the dial on agility.

The leaders are too much in self-protection mode to even entertain the idea of operating in organization-advance mode.

“Command and Control” Leadership

How prevalent is “command and control” leadership in your organization? If my experience working with organizations is representative of your experience, “command and control” leadership is much closer to the norm than the exception.

And, the result is low emotional intelligence, a self-protecting culture, low engagement, high turnover, and low agility.

Moral of this Article

Organizations can talk and do trainings on agility, change, and even mindsets until they are blue in the face. Yet, significant change is never going to happen until the organization uncovers and addresses the self-protecting fears that leaders have.

Why a Focus on Mindsets Wasn’t Working for the Fortune 50 Organization?

I hope you are asking at least one of two questions:

  • “How do I stop being a ‘command and control’ leader?
  • “How do we get rid of the ‘command and control’ leadership culture in my organization?

I do believe a focus on mindsets provides the clearest and best path forward.

I say this recognizing that in the case study above, the Fortune 50 company had been focusing on mindsets. There are two reasons why their focus on mindsets was limited:

  1. They didn’t allow their conversations and trainings around mindsets to lead into conversations of underlying and mindset-fueled fears and insecurities. They simply assumed that by providing mindset trainings, people would change their mindsets.
  2. They weren’t requiring their top executives to engage in any of the mindset training. Remember, the group that I worked with pulled from the organization’s top 500 leaders, but it did not involve the top 50 leaders in the organization. So, effectively, the top executives in the company were saying: “We don’t need the training, you do!” And, these top executives were the one’s leading out in the “command and control” leadership style, which was cascading down the organization.

Solving the “Command and Control” Leadership Problem

I believe a focus on mindsets, if done right, provides the clearest and best path forward in addressing the “command and control” leadership problem because:

  1. The self-protecting fears that cause leaders to engage in “command and control” leadership are mindset driven
  2. Identifying the four different mindset sets leaders can have helps leaders themselves or organizations as a whole do a better job of identifying and uncovering the self-protection fears that lead to “command and control” leadership
  3. The best way to address and/or treat the self-protecting fears that leaders have is by creating a culture founded upon growth, open, promotion, and outward mindsets

If You have a Culture of “Command and Control” Leadership in Your Organization…

I would love to work with you.

One of the best places to start is to do a collective mindset assessment in your organization. It will quickly help you identify the culture and common fears within your organization.

Click here for more information: Collective Mindset Report

If You Want to Ensure You are Not a “Command and Control” Leader…

First, take my FREE personal mindset assessment to see if you have any of the negative mindsets that lead to a “command and control” leadership style:

Second, book a Free Discovery Call with me to help you uncover whether you have any fears or blind spots that are wreaking havoc on your leadership: Free Discovery Call.