Controlling Micro-Managers ARE a Good Thing?


Take a look at this article by Steve Tobak on “Why Control Freaks Are Natural Leaders”.

This relates somewhat to an earlier piece I posted on “Quit Leading, Start Managing.   Tobak argues that in spite of the often annoying traits of controlling bosses, they do have key traits that drive them to produce results that make our organizations successful.    Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Larry Ellison have all been accused of being over-controlling, and yet most of  us would want to have invested in their company’s 15 years ago.

Here are some points to consider about hard-to-please, controlling bosses

1) They are driven – typically they have immense internal energy and  have trouble turning it off.  They don’t sleep at night, their minds are always on the move, and nothing is ever good enough – even when they think about their own behavior.   These people strive to reach higher, and push to do the same.

2) They’re results oriented problem solvers – “People with those traits can barely walk down the street or around the office without seeing one thing after another that needs fixing or can be done more effectively.”   An offshoot of being driven – but these folks never rest until they find a better way.

3) Their self-confidence is a source of strengthWhile some people would say that Steve Jobs (at least during his early years at Apple) was an arrogant self-absorbed maniac.  Perhaps so.  But this self-confidence also can be a source of strength.  When charting a course for your business in an uncertain world, sometimes you have to make decisions without sufficient data, based on instinct. You aren’t sure if success will come, but your self-confidence enables you to have the courage to step out in a new direction and stay the course when people are questioning your vision.

4) They’re often narcissistic –  In our previous post “Time to Break More Rules”, we showed some research suggesting that even when we act in completely selfish and rude ways in public, people often associate such “bad boy” behavior with more power and influence.  While we may find such  self-centeredness to be annoying, we also tend to defer to people who demonstrate even selfish non-conformance.

I realize it is tough to work for bosses who are like this, but many organizations are better off as a consequence of having some of these people around.  They generate the ideas that produce the cash that makes the business thrive.

To be sure, there are downsides to these behaviors – the principal one being that these people aren’t generally good developers or nurturers of employees. Their organizations may face succession planning challenges, and perhaps even a higher than desired turnover rates among highly talented people.

So, to be sure, it is hard to argue that an organization over-weighted with such controlling micro-managers would be a good thing.  But let’s all recognize there are few (maybe no) perfect leaders.   So perhaps when we encounter the hard driven kind, we can cut them some slack and try to figure out how to better harness their amazing energy for the greater good.

Read Tobak’s article and see what you think.

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2 Comments

Filed under Leading

2 responses to “Controlling Micro-Managers ARE a Good Thing?

  1. jennstark

    Great post, Len. Leaders, often, simply have to be aggressive in order to get things done. If they come across as pushy and step on toes, that can be a problem in certain public-facing situations, but in terms of pushing an organization forward, it’s often the only way!

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