Maybe you recognize these signs in a leader you know: Every task needs their eyes and approval. They know precisely where everyone is and what they’re doing. No one’s work is immune from their critique and endless editing. They rarely delegate tasks, preferring instead to have others contribute without owning the outcomes. They second-guess everything, endlessly revisiting how others arrived at their conclusions and decisions. Question sessions become “gotcha” sessions where the leader points out how they could have done the work better. They want oodles of information and data, creating busywork unrelated to achieving the end result. You get the picture.
As you already know, these leaders carry the label of “micromanagers.” They attempt to create excellence by being overly controlling of others’ work and processes. We know this: Micromanagers experience high turnover and burnout on the teams they lead. Team members don’t feel trusted or responsible when working for micromanagers, and therefore under-deliver and underperform for them. The micromanager is a witness to what’s happening on the team - less initiative, risk-taking, and independent thinking. They pat themselves on the back, while concluding that a less controlling leader would get even less out of such an unimaginative group. They would be dead wrong.
Given the obvious drawbacks and lower productivity, why are so many leaders still tempted to micromanage people and situations? The answer lies in a lack of perspective. Even if it worked (which it doesn’t, by any standard), micromanaging leaders fail to recognize that this brand of leadership isn’t scalable. The only way to ensure success is for them to be directly involved with everything and anything, making the team capable of only a handful of initiatives at any given time. This means the team underperforms precisely because of them!
The ultimate irony is that leaders who micromanage others fail to give ample time to their own priorities and responsibilities, preferring instead to add pressure and frustration to others who would like to do their work without endless interruptions and second-guessing.
Good leaders eschew micromanaging behavior, preferring to clarify roles and responsibilities and letting people drive toward results on their own. The leader is there as a resource when they hit a brick wall.
By staying in their own lane, the best leaders develop a team that feels trusted and engaged. This is how organizations and teams scale work and become ever more productive and successful. The next time you encounter a micromanager parading like a leader, remind this person that enabling a team to be all they can be requires a leader willing to do less.