Command and control leadership style is outdated - we heard this many times. What makes it outdated? What are the alternatives? How can we establish the right routines for a new leadership approach? There are many debates around this topic and I feel I want to share my belief and opinion.
Control - let's start with this as many of us have experienced it in form of micro-management. Frequent status update meetings ask if the projects are on the right track. Senior managers churn out roadmaps and give milestones on what needs to be achieved by when. An army of analysts provide reports on a number of data points. All this machinery is in my eyes blocking ownership; there seems to be no leeway for experimentation and leveraging experience.
In my experience, people at the front know best where to improve and where we can reduce friction. Though, they need an environment where they can connect with diverse experts and experiment with different options. The objective here is to learn, make quick decisions and continuously improve and excel. As a leader, we need to be the facilitator for this environment, removing bottlenecks, allocating resources, and connecting the right people. And, this requires a big picture direction...
Command - the second dimension is more nuanced. Managers might give commands, telling people what to do and giving them very little room to explore their own methods and defining their own objectives. Again, this is close to micro-management and the lack of freedom where to go is stifling creativity and a growth mindset. At the same time, a commander's responsibility is to give people a purpose and direction, and keeping the teams aligned with a bigger purpose. The big question here: are we creating followers or leaders?
In my experience, I have seen often a gap between a nice mission statement and how people perceive this is impacting their daily work. People need a high-level direction that allows them to define their daily priorities. And, everyone should be involved in defining this high-level direction to add their 'local' expertise and for better adoption. As a leader, we need to be the guide to jointly develop a collective dream. And then, coach the teams to translate this dream into a meaningful direction for themselves.
Based on these arguments, I propose to switch from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. In short, I prefer to call it positive leadership which focuses on appreciation, coaching, curiosity and learning.
Where do you see the pitfalls of command & control?
Image credit: Konrad Frost, Volvo Ocean Race
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.