Are you a control freak leader?

The term ‘control freak’ gets bandied about a lot and it doesn’t often come with a lot of positive baggage. Most people would be quite affronted if you were to label them a control freak and be quick to dispute it and yet, control freaks end up in leadership positions more often than you might think.

What is a control freak?

Put simply, it’s someone who has a hard time relinquishing control. This can happen in all areas of life, from the way they handle personal relationships, to how they approach work-related tasks. For a control freak, it’s all about staying at the wheel and ensuring things go the way they want them to go.

Still not sure you’re a control freak? There are some telltale signs that you, or someone you know, is having a little trouble with control. Have you heard or said any variations of these phrases lately?

“I’ll just do it myself, because no one else does it right.”

Control freaks have a hard time delegating tasks to other people within their team because they don’t believe that anyone will get the job done to their standards. After all, why bother wasting time checking and fixing other people’s work when you could just do it right the first time?

“I can’t understand how someone would make that mistake, it seems pretty obvious to me.”

Those who have trouble giving up control also struggle to have compassion for those who might not quite adapt to new tasks easily. They become frustrated with team members who seem to make mistakes often or just don’t pick skills up quickly.

“We need to avoid mistakes at all costs.”

Control freaks do not like the idea of things going wrong. They like to anticipate all the worst-case scenarios and do anything they can to avoid them. They see mistakes and failures as reflection on them even if they are quick to shift the blame at the first opportunity.

“Let me show you how I do that”

Having someone to show you the ropes is important, especially when it comes to asking questions. Control freaks, however, like to show everyone exactly how to do everything, never letting their team learn by themselves and problem solve.

What are the dangers of a control freak in charge?

It’s easy to see how so many control freaks end up in leadership positions – if they’re the only ones doing the work (or taking credit for it), then it makes sense that they would be seen as natural leaders. They disguise their controlling tendencies behind phrases like ‘detail-oriented’ or ‘a fan of a job well-done’. Having a control freak at the head of your team is dangerous for everyone.

No trust – Leaders set the tone for their entire team and if they don’t trust their team to get the job done, it’s unlikely that the team will trust each other. When a leader sees it as ‘every man for himself’ it doesn’t take much more to create an untrustworthy environment.

No strategy – When a leader refuses to delegate, it leaves team members in the dark. They don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing and even if they do know the basics, they may not have any knowledge of how they’re supposed to do it.

No team – Control freaks are easily frustrated, lack compassion and rarely want to take others’ ideas on board. Teamwork is founded on these things – without them, any team would find it difficult to stay glued together.

No productivity – Have you ever tried to do everything yourself? It becomes exhausting. When your mind is in a million places at once, it becomes difficult to focus on one thing and do it well. Control freaks might start out thinking they are the only ones who can get the job done well but after a while, as the responsibilities pile up, it becomes more difficult to keep up and burnout looms on the horizon.

The truth is that most of us have control freak tendencies. We all like to be in control as much as possible. It’s okay to feel that way sometimes but if you have noticed these patterns arising in your own behaviour, it might be time to take stock and start combatting your inner control freak. Start by delegating appropriately to your team – let go of some things and let your  team take care of them with your support. It’s a good thing to start doing, they’re more than capable.

If you’re ready to transform the way you lead your team, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Our online leadership training videos start from $99 for a year’s access, with new video training added each quarter. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.