Skip to main content

controlling leader

In my years leading in business and churches, I have known many people who claim to be leaders, but they are actually nothing more than controllers of people. There is a huge difference in leading and controlling.

In fact, the differences are almost exact opposites:

Here are some characteristics of environments that lead people:

  • Creativity is encouraged and mistakes are seen as part of the process
  • People are developed more than programs
  • Healthy relationships and teams are part of the DNA
  • Delegation thrives and people are empowered
  • Everyone has value on a team
  • People follow willingly, because they feel respected and valued
  • Leadership development is part of the DNA

Here are some characteristics of controlling people:

  • Personal growth is stifled
  • Creativity and independent thought is discouraged
  • Followers are kept as a distance from leaders
  • Leaders insist on their way and are never wrong
  • People are taken for granted
  • Positions and policies rule more than relationships
  • People are employees more than team members

Apparently, to some leaders, it appears easier to simply make people do what the leader wants them to do. By force. I’ve had bosses like that. Making people carry out your agenda simplifies things…it seems. But, that’s not really leadership.

Leadership is more of an art than that. Leading people effectively means helping people with different skills, talents and interests, even ideas and temperaments in a way that makes them feel valued and yet accomplishes the established vision and goals.

That’s not easy. That’s not even always fun. But, it certainly is truer of leadership. The fact is you can’t truly lead people and control people. The two don’t work well together.

Have you ever worked for a controller?

Be honest with yourself, are you leading people, or do you claim to be a leader, but you are really a controlling people?

Related Posts

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

More posts by Ron Edmondson

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Brent Dumler says:

    I've worked for these people as well. One common sign of a controling leader is that their 'employees' typically have a very high turn-over rate. When you don't respect your boss, enjoy what you do, or feel like you have any say in the direction of the organization…..why stay??? And this definitely holds just as true for churches.

  • I've found that controllers are often narcissists. Thanks for the post.

  • LaSundra

    Ive been under several Controllers who believed they were leading, and claimed to do it well. Their claims were in the classic form of “this is how we do it, how it has always been done, and you’re causing discord”.

    The fact of the matter is…there was a huge gap, and I felt it strongly. Others did as well, but would never dare say anything especially if they were making great salaries. Both in corporate settings and ministry arenas. I’ve even learned that the more the follower has natural leadership abilities, the more the controller tightens their control grip.

    It’s unhealthy to say the least and I am ashamed to say that I spent many years thinking it would change; and spent years being convinced that any problem arising from challenging the control; was my fault. Yes, in corporate and ministry arenas.

    Now that I’m free of the disfunction of such environments, I am able to discern the patterns and characteristics of controller vs. leader. Its like the difference between little debbies cakes and homemade, very different and noticable once you’ve experienced both :).

    I would encourage anyone who feels their in this type of environment or “mentorship” to step away for 3 weeks or months and see the difference :).!


  • kentjulian says:

    I've been fortunate to work with some fantastic leaders over the years from whom I've learned much. I've also compared stories with those who have worked with controllers. These conversations taught me early on how to avoid being under the control of a controller.

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.