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Leaders Vs Dictators, And How To Avoid Becoming The Latter

We’ve all had a terrible boss at some point in our career. It is an unfortunate inevitability. There are many reasons why a boss can be terrible, or at times even seem like a dictator. The most consistent pattern in my experience with terrible bosses is they attempt to maintain total control and power of any given situation.

All interactive relationships have two elements within; control and power. Control is the ultimate decision that will be made at the end of an interaction. If you own your company, for example, no staff member can ever have control over the business. At the end of the day, you have that control.

Power is the energy or ability to carry out the decision that has been made or has yet to be made. A team, for example, is the power, not the leader. It is the team that works together to get the job done. On an individual level, it is the individual who works to get the job done. The leader may coordinate efforts (control) so the team can work effectively. However, a leader is nothing without those who follow. If the team does not follow, nothing will get done.

In any given interaction, you increase your probability of success by only assuming that you have either control or power, not both. When someone in a leadership role attempts to maintain control and power, they are a perceived to be in a role of a dictator. When someone perceives they do not have control or power, they perceive that they in a position of a slave.

For example, if a leader assigns a task to an employee (control), the employee has the power to do the task on time or not. It will come down to prioritization and bandwidth. What if that employee had too many tasks that were all due on the same day? Could the employee speak up without retribution and express themselves? What if they said, “I can’t do that task as requested because of XYZ. If you want, we could push these things out and then I would be able to get it done on time. Does that work for you?” This openness, with acceptance between parties on power and control, create a safe and productive workplace.

The leader assumes the position of control and reprioritizes the tasks with realistic timeframes. What if the current task being assigned isn’t that important? What if there were other tasks that the leader had forgotten about that could easily pushed back? When the leader and the coworker understand their ability to have control or power, the ability to work well with one another skyrockets.

At this point, when explaining this concept, the question is almost always asked, “when does the employee have control and the owner have power?” Let’s run through a hypothetical scenario. What if an employee came in and said, “I need XYZ or I am leaving”? Who has control of the conversation? The employee. The owner has power to accept the terms or not. Either side can assume control or power.

It is time to take steps to heal the workplace. Take a moment in your daily interactions and ask yourself, “Am I in a position of control or power?” By raising awareness, you can tame the dictator behavior and become a principle-based leader.