Leadership: Control vs. Influence

leadershipAs a leader, the distinction of “control vs. influence” is an important one to consider. Which is better? The answer is probably “it depends,” however, when working with employees or your team, influence can be so much more effective that it’s not even a contest.

As an entrepreneur, sometimes control is the only thing we think we have to keep all the balls in the air. Unfortunately, when you have “control” or perceived control of everything you become the bottleneck, and everyone relies on you to do or approve things. Additionally, you will get labeled as a micromanager and there are not many who like working for a micromanager. This becomes the Achilles’ heel for a lot of entrepreneurs.

Another common challenge based in control is growing and running so fast that the response to someone on your team asking you to slow down and explain is annoyance. A typical leadership pitfall is to think, “well, it’s just easier to do it myself.” This ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy, (and not in a good way), as you will end up doing EVERYTHING yourself.

Sometimes the belief that control is the right way to manage and lead is because you think you are the smartest person in the room. You might be, but probably not about everything. If you surround yourself with people “less smart” than you simply to boost your ego and make sure no one outshines you, you will end without any loyalty on your team. People are only willing to do things for people who don’t respect them for a very short time. Eventually, they move on to a place where they are appreciated for what the bring to the table.

Fear of delegation, (because of concern things might go badly), or the lack of knowledge of “how” to do something are some of the most often stated reasons for the lack of delegation and therefore control by the leader. These issues are also self-perpetuating – the less you delegate, the more you will have to do and the less you get done. Not trusting your people and willingness to delegate will keep you stuck at the same business stage and prevent growth.

“Influence” on the other hand, allows for things to be delegated. It says, go ahead and try, I will nudge you in the right direction and catch you if you fall but you “do it.” Influence is what people use to grow companies. A leader can only be so many things to so many people, but first and foremost, it should be about being the leader. If you are the doer, you are not leading. However, if you are behind the scenes influencing things to be done – quietly – a lot more will be accomplished.

Influence is a supportive conversation, a nudge to try something new, using your experience to mentor up another to do well. Influencers are mostly quiet but often larger than life characters that “know” something should be done a certain way. Influencers on social media sites are those who have attracted a large following – just make sure the following is real and genuine before jumping on the bandwagon. Think about the mentors you have had over time – most likely those that exercised influence were more impactful than those that wielded control over you.

If your job as the leader is to grow your company and grow you people, (my definition), which strategy, control or influence is more likely to have success? If you ask the people you are leading, 99% of the answers will be influence. Try it, it’s a lot less work than control!