Leaders Do This: Take Whatever Yogurt is Given to Them

I just ate some yogurt. And let’s be honest: it was good but not great. It was pre-mixed and NOT in the classic frut-on-the-bottom style. Pre-mixed yogurt may be convenient for some, but I don’t like some person at Danon mixing MY yogurt. Fruit on the bottom is ideal because you are the designated mixer. You decide how much stirring happens, and you decide when. It’s all about control with fruit on the bottom.

Does it mean that you are a control freak if you like fruit on the bottom yogurt instead of pre-mixed? Or is it simply that you have a certain culinary taste and/or ability? Perhaps control tendencies aren’t even a factor. Then again, if someone like me demands that I GET TO BE THE ONE to stir the fruit into the yogurt… well… draw your own conclusions about me and my personality.

What is the perfect balance of control and freedom for the leader? Leaders who are branded as “control freaks” aren’t branded as such because of their excellent management skills. That’s why the “freak” part is attached to the phrase. To be a freak — to be extreme — is never the goal of the leader. I’m not even sure if it’s good to be overly passionate. Someone might boldly (tongue-in-cheek) say “Oh, I’m a freak alright — a passion freak (smile)”. Nice. Thanks, Michael Scott.

I struggle with the balance between control and freedom in my leadership context. I want to equip and let go, but, at the same time, I know that my job is to have at least some control over the deal. Too much is bad (control freak). Not enough is bad (does he/she even care?) Sometimes avoiding responsibility can be billed as not being a control freak, but that’s not good, either. Finding the balance between control and freedom isn’t easy. I’m still finding the balance. Here’s what I’m learning:

1. Control is good. It’s all about where your hand is in the whole mix. Don’t control details, but be in control of who’s contorlling those details. That way, you do your job as a leader of being responsible for your stuff, but you’re also allowing your people to do their jobs without you micromanaging. Offer encouragement and support to those whom you’ve delegated the details to. Ask questions like “how can I serve you better”. Cast vision and make sure that what you’re saying can be applied to their job descriptions so that they know where they fit in the organization.

2. Don’t control/micromanage things just because you think you can do it better. Even if you can perform a certain task with greater ease and skill, you’ve failed as a leader. Trust your people. Guide and correct, but do so from a distance. Your control mechanism has entered the picture earlier, long before they get around to doing something. If you set them up for success, you shouldn’t find yourself trying to do their job. If this happens, it’s not their fault. It’s yours.

3. Be a control freak. A self-control freak, that is. Great leaders combine the burden of knowledge and the discipline of self-control. Knowing when to say something and when to shut it is a fine art that correlates directly with the balance between control and freedom.

I guess that a truly free person might take whatever yogurt is given to them.

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