Leaders As Control Freaks


A control freak refers to a person who must be in control of all things and people. This is the micromanager who nitpicks about performance to such an extent workers are emotionally exhausted and anxious.

But a control freak, in my mind, is a leader who practices self-regulation, who is the locus on control. Such a leader is the strong center in a cyclonic tornado of activity and conflict in the workplace. In fact, we look to our leaders to remain calm, rational and inspirational even in the most challenging circumstances.

I recently read an article about Mayor Giuliani whose passion for New York anchored the city in the middle of the 911 catastrophe in which terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers, killing thousands. His hands-on approach distinguished him as a legendary leader. He aided firefighters, attended to the injured and took to the airwaves to comfort and calm the city.  Americans will never forget Rudy Giuliani.

Poise under pressure largely comes with daily practice. How can you stress proof yourself so the fast-pace demanding nature of work not leap into your psyche, emotions and ultimately impact your health? I believe you are ridiculously in charge of protecting your energy, making more energy and recovering from stress as your daily practice so you have energy not only to perform your duties but to knock your performance out of the park.

More than ever longstanding and excessive tension is robbing leaders of innovation, creative problem solving, positivity and productivity.

However, disguised self-neglect is partially to blame.  Inherent in the American Creed of success is the byproduct of regular ten to twelve-hour days, overwhelm and constant exhaustion.  We think this is the price paid to climb up the corporate ladder.  But hidden in this creed is the unsustainability of these beliefs in daily practice. It will ultimately lead to burnout.

Here are a few research-based practices that might feel counterintuitive at first, but can stress proof you, and improve your work performance.

The Myth of Multitasking

Yes. I understand you’ve been juggling three to five things at a time, such as answering texts in the middle of a business meeting, or you’re managing volumes of data while dealing with people problems. but research suggests, especially as it relates to prioritized projects, you focus. Often when you multitask you are shifting your attention from one activity to the next, and in doing so you scatter your attention which results in a mediocre performance or mistakes. As a result, you are spending extra time and money fixing them. Intense focus, on the other hand, provides the conditions for you to deeply delve into a topic. As you do, epiphanies, connections, and innovation often result. A boosted performance is the result. Another byproduct is less stress.


If you are like me, you are a recovering control freak. In the past, I thought if you wanted something done right, do it yourself. It nearly burned me out. Instead, free up your time to do your expertise, and let others do peripheral activities.

Additionally, delegation gives you the opportunity to develop other leaders. So, choose the best young leaders and invest in them. That which someone else can-do eighty percent as well as you, delegate. The key to delegation is in modeling your standards and desired results. It makes it easier for you to let go so you can develop and exercise your strengths.

Break Every 90 Minutes

“Rosalind, “you might think, “that’s just being lazy.” Nonetheless, research backs a five to ten-minute break every ninety minutes. The fast-paced nature of most workplaces and the massive amount of data hurled at us requires our mind to process it. We need frequent breaks to do that. During your downtime do something unrelated to your work such as:

·         Taking nap

·         Socializing with a co-worker

·         Playing a game on your cell phone

As you break, your mind will be assessing, making predictions, assembling the big picture, and making connections. This practice can leverage performance and reduce tension.


Managing stress and energy is key to high performance every day.

These are but a few practices support you and extend your reach as a leader.  Try them and document the effects of the practices.  Undoubted being a control freak as it relates to regulating yourself will result in greater productivity, performance, and influence.


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