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10 Steps for Overcoming Control Freak Tendencies as a Leader

Being a control freak doesn't make you a leader; it makes you a bottleneck

Are you a control freak? As a leader, it’s natural to want to ensure that things are done correctly and efficiently. However, for some managers, the need to control everything becomes an obsession that can have severe consequences for themselves and their team. This blog post is aimed at those who struggle with excessive control and want to learn how to let go without sacrificing results.

In this post, we’ll explore the concept of control freaks, the reasons behind the urge to control, and the impact of excessive control on people’s well-being. We’ll also provide practical tips and strategies to help managers overcome the need to control everything and become more effective and happy leaders. So, if you’re ready to break free from the cycle of control and create a healthier work environment, read on!

What is a Control Freak?

When we talk about control freaks, we refer to people who have an excessive need to control situations, people, and outcomes. The term has a negative connotation because it implies that the person’s behavior is irrational, disruptive, and harmful to themselves and others. Here are some examples of behaviors that characterize control freaks:

  • Micromanaging: trying to control every aspect of a task, including minor details that don’t affect the outcome.
  • Obsessing over details: getting fixated on small things that don’t matter in the big picture, such as font size or punctuation marks.
  • Being inflexible: refusing to consider alternative approaches or ideas that don’t align with their expectations.
  • Refusing to delegate: feeling uncomfortable with assigning tasks to others because they fear that the outcome won’t meet their standards.
  • Being defensive: reacting negatively to feedback or criticism and defending their actions, even when they’re wrong.

Despite the common belief that being a control freak shows competence and responsibility, it’s not a desirable trait for a leader. In fact, it can hinder productivity, creativity, and team morale. As a leader, your job is to empower your team to perform at their best, not to restrict their potential by controlling every move they make.

Where Does the Urge to Control Come From?

The need for control can stem from various psychological and environmental factors. Here are some possible causes:

  • Anxiety: a sense of unease or apprehension about the future that leads to the desire to control it.
  • Perfectionism: an unrealistic expectation of flawlessness that creates a need to control the outcome. I have written a blog with 10 Perfect Tips About Letting Go of Perfectionism.
  • Trauma: past experiences of loss of control or unpredictability that lead to a desire to prevent them from happening again.
  • Lack of trust: a belief that others can’t be trusted to do things correctly or as expected, leading to a need to control the situation.
  • Fear of failure: a belief that any mistake or failure is unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs.
The PsychCentral has written an informative article about why you might need to control everything and how you can seek help. For this blog, it is important to understand the root of the problem, but I would like to focus on changing the behavior. 
In other words, even if you know why you feel the need to control, it’s not an excuse to continue doing so. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to create a healthy work environment that empowers your team and fosters their growth.

The Cost of Excessive Control

Excessive control can have severe consequences for both the control freak and the people around them. Here are some of the negative effects:

  • Employee morale: When a leader micromanages their team, it sends the message that they don’t trust their employees’ abilities. This can lead to a sense of demoralization and reduced motivation, which can impact the quality of work produced.
  • Creativity: When a leader insists on controlling every aspect of a project, it leaves no room for creativity and innovation. This can stifle the team’s potential and result in a lack of new ideas or approaches.
  • Autonomy: When a leader doesn’t delegate tasks or involve their team in decision-making processes, it can make employees feel undervalued and disengaged. This lack of autonomy can lead to resentment and a decrease in job satisfaction.
  • Job satisfaction: When a leader controls every aspect of their team’s work, it can create a toxic work environment that is not conducive to job satisfaction or well-being. This can result in high turnover rates and difficulty in retaining talent.

10 Tips to Overcome the Urge to Control

If you’re a manager struggling with the need to control everything, here are some practical tips to help you let go and delegate more effectively:

  1. Practice self-reflection: Take some time to reflect on why you feel the need to control everything. Is it anxiety, a lack of trust, or a fear of failure? Identifying the root cause can help you work towards changing the behavior.
  2. Develop self-awareness: Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when you feel the urge to control. Recognize when you’re micromanaging and try to stop yourself (read: Self-Awareness in Leadership: The Importance of Knowing Yourself).
  3. Delegate tasks: Start small by delegating low-stakes tasks to your team members. Gradually work your way up to more significant responsibilities as you build trust.
  4. Communicate effectively: Set clear expectations and communicate openly with your team. Let them know what you expect and what their responsibilities are. Make yourself available to answer questions and offer guidance when needed.
  5. Build trust: Trust is essential in any working relationship. Build trust with your team by being honest, reliable, and transparent.
  6. Prioritize tasks: Identify the most important tasks and focus your energy on those. Let your team handle the rest.
  7. Empower your team: Encourage your team members to take ownership of their work and contribute their ideas. Create an environment where they feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes.
  8. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay focused on the present moment and reduce anxiety. Take a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
  9. Seek feedback: Ask your team members for feedback on your leadership style. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity to improve.
  10. Celebrate success: Recognize and celebrate your team’s successes. Acknowledge their hard work and contributions.

By following these tips, you can reduce the urge to control and improve the quality of work and relationships with your team members. Remember that changing behavior takes time and practice, but the benefits are worth it.


In conclusion, being a control freak is not a desirable trait for a leader. It can harm both the control freak and the people around them, leading to decreased employee morale, creativity, autonomy, and job satisfaction. The urge to control may come from various psychological and environmental factors, but it’s essential to focus on changing the behavior to improve the quality of work and relationships.

In this post, we have discussed the negative consequences of excessive control and provided practical tips for letting go of the need to control everything. We encourage managers to reflect on their behaviors, communicate effectively, delegate tasks, prioritize, build trust, empower their team, practice mindfulness, seek feedback, and celebrate successes. By following these strategies, leaders can reduce their urge to control and create a more positive and productive work environment.

Changing behavior takes time and practice, but the benefits are worth it. Letting go of excessive control can lead to increased employee engagement, innovation, and creativity. So, try the suggested tips and seek support if needed. By embracing a more balanced approach to leadership, you can become a more effective and successful leader.


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