Traits of a Leader

7 Steps to Being a Successful Positive Control Freak Leader

Cheryl cran asked:

It may seem odd to think that a control freak could be a good thing. Not so odd in my opinion. Many leaders are labeled a control freak by sheer nature of being in leadership. An Australian survey of 385 employees from around the world responded to a survey titled, “Is Your Boss a Control Freak?” 68% had a male boss and 32% had a female boss. Interestingly 68% of employees with a female boss considered her to be a control freak, whereas 57% of employees with a male boss considered him to be a control freak.

So if you are going to be called control freaks just by being a leader then I say why not turn that into a good thing? In my book, “The Control Freak Revolution- Make Your Most Maddening Behaviors Work For Your Company and To Your Advantage” I provide tips and strategies on how to use positive control to become a better leader.

The 7 steps to being a successful positive control freak leader are excerpted from the book from Chapter Nine. Here they are:

1. Self control- be aware of self

First of all be willing to admit you have controlling tendencies in the first place. High performing leaders have heightened levels of self-awareness and therefore are able to focus the control of their thoughts, actions and behaviors.

For example a high performing executive recognized that his team was not being overly truthful with him or keeping him informed of issues. He investigated his own behavior to see if he was somehow creating a lack of trust with his leadership team. Sure enough he realized that when he was informed of issues his typical behavior was to berate and demean the messenger. The unspoken message then to his team was, “it is not safe to approach him with this”. As soon as he was able to self-identify his role in the problem he was able to take action to shift it.

2. Reality Check- see yourself in reality

You can positively influence others when you see yourself the way they see you. Others perceptions are crucial to our ability to lead in a personalized and inspiring way. A positive control freak sees themselves clearly and objectively. I use the example of the boss Michael from the TV show “The Office”. He is a classic example of someone who does not realize that everyone thinks he is a loser. He sees himself as highly regarded and respected. Unfortunately when we see ourselves one way and our team sees us another we lose all ability to positively control the direction and success of our department or office.

3. Learn and Grow- projection and reflection

A positive control freak learns to identify when they are projecting on to others and also that others are a reflection of themselves. From a psychological standpoint everyone we interact with provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow. If I am blaming you for something and it was my fault then I am projecting. If you are being insincere and trite then you are reflecting back to me behaviors that I myself may be exhibiting. A highly evolved leader has ‘done the work’ of assessing when they might be projecting and they catch themselves. The highly evolved leader also recognizes that everyone is a mirror and all behaviors shown by others provide an opportunity for us to look inside and examine why we are bothered or irritated. The leader who is willing to consistently learn and grow is a positive control freak. They are controlling their ability to think and act differently.

4. Psyche Control- archetypes and you

A positive control freak has spent much time and effort on understanding the personalities of others. Carl Jung the noted originator of archetypes was the founder of the whole notion that we all have unique personality traits and these cause us to value certain things over others and to have a propensity for certain behaviors that are in alignment with our personality type. A company I have been working with as a consultant over the past few months had some challenges with their leaders and their teams and asked me to facilitate a personality’s type session. It was an eye opening experience for the leaders who had not been exposed to ‘group’ analysis of their team mate’s personalities. Simply by understanding why people do what they do leaders can achieve better results by individualizing their approach with everyone on their team.

5. Use of Time Control- conscious personal leadership

Positive control freak leaders use their PDA’s to control their time not people. In fact when you gain control of your time you gain control of your life. Delegation is the key skill of a positive control freak. The focus is on staying high level with our activities and delegating all things we liked to control to others and to help them learn and grow. The PDA has allowed all of us control freaks to manage our time and tasks in a more efficient manner.

6. Inspiring Others Through Positive Control

A funky control freak (the good kind) focuses on supporting and inspiring others to action. A negative or freaky control freak thinks that everyone else needs to be fixed. They might be thinking about their staff, “go to this seminar and go get fixed.” That type of thinking and approach always backfires because the employee will resist and will actually not benefit from the seminar because they have been told to go get fixed. An inspiring positive control freak would propose seminars and learning as a positive opportunity to learn and grow . It’s all in the delivery, its not just what you say it is so much about how you say it and what your intention is that determines successful interactions. Positive control requires creativity and new approaches and a focus on respect and a desire to help others succeed.

7. Success Control- helping others to succeed

A positive funky control freak enjoys helping others to succeed and to gain recognition. A former work mate of mine from way back in my finance days had left her job to go work for a well known competitor. She absolutely loved her new boss. Her boss was a funky control freak who knew she could get way more mileage from her people by making them look fantastic than by taking all the glory for herself. The boss was asked to be interviewed for a prominent industry publication and rather than do the interview herself she gave it to my former work mate. The interview got published and my former work mate got major accolades not for a short time but for a very long time. How dedicated to her boss do you think she was? This was a savvy leader who knew by giving the exposure to her employee the payoff would be far greater than simply maintaining control and doing it herself.

Cheryl Cran, CSP is the author of “The Control Freak Revolution”, “50 Ways to Lead & Love It” as well as “Say What You Mean- Mean What You Say”. She has articles and interviews in major magazines and newspapers. Download the first chapter of her book for free at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *