Command and Control Leadership vs. Great Communication Leadership by Violet Dhu

A lot of people I work with struggle with their leadership style, their difficult conversations and in being influential as a leader. And one of the common themes I find, is that they still believe in, and practise command and control as a predominate leadership strategy. That is, “I am the boss and people should just follow me and do as I say, because I am in control”. Unfortunately, Command and Control is often not an effective leadership style and it often generates resistance within a team and stifles collaboration and creativity.

An alternative leadership style is one of being a great communicator who builds trust and uses inspiration to get results. Great communication, trust, and inspiration are essential traits in modern day leadership.

When a disagreement occurs, Command and Control leadership is about appearing strong and confident and showing that you have the answers. Communication leadership is about exploring the landscape and the disagreement together with the aim of solving it and learning together.

Trust and inspiration are something that a leader earns by their own example and their own behaviours. So as a leader you need to inspire people and build trust by what you do and say, rather than lead from your position or title. Command and control leadership comes from your title and your position.

Professor Thomas Allan of MIT found that successful projects were usually driven by people he called high communicators. The high level of communication allowed complex problems and barriers to be quickly overcome, thus moving the project forward. These high communicators quickly built trust and inspired their teams to solve problems.

The Japanese concept of kaizen is about continual improvement by accessing the ideas, thoughts, and creativity of the entire team. Kaizen requires a communication leadership style. 

The command and control style of leadership is becoming more problematic and failing as workplaces deal with generational change and younger workers who do not respond to command and control.  What individuals and the team expect from their leader has changed.

Ensure that you and the customer have a shared understanding of what you both need to do to complete the project.  Focus on timely discussions and be prepared to adjust the project until you agree.

The Command and control leader likes:

  • to make decisions on their own. 
  • to have a structured work environment with set rules and processes
  • they are more likely to be driven, analytical and task-focused  
  • they often focus on what needs to be done and how and when the task needs to be completed.
  • they prefer people to get to the point and can be blunt in the way they deliver the message.

To bring the best out in each other and the team people are looking for a more communicative, collaborative, and inclusive approach to leadership. 

They prefer a communication style leader who:

  • listens and makes it safe for them to ask for help
  • shows they care even when they are under pressure themselves
  • consults with them and asks for their perspective and asks them what would help them to complete the task
  • asks rather than tells or directs them in what needs to be done
  • takes the time to communicate the why behind the decision making?   People need to understand why they are being asked to make changes.

Leaders need to be able to step away from command and control and accept that there are better leadership styles. Being a great communicator who builds trust and inspires people by their own actions is a better way to lead.

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