- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Lose control, to gain more control: The paradox and the symptoms

The more ‘command-and-control’ you practice, the less control you actually have and the more you’ll need to command. In today’s organizational life, there is little room for the ‘and’ between the words ‘command’ and ‘control’. If anything, it is ‘command and ‘be a slave to it’. Lose control and you will actually gain more control.

If ‘nuclei of control’ are scattered all over the organization and the company functions well, that is a clear sign that there is no need for a central ‘command and control’. It is also an indication of distributed independence, of trust in people’s capabilities that is spread across the organization. Although the days when the uniforms of Woolworths’ staff had no pockets (to make sure they didn’t steal) are long gone, the days where individual employees and teams don’t have much room to decide for themselves (as they may make the wrong decisions) have not.

Command and control management is intellectually dismissed by many who are convinced of its inefficiency and waste. But rational understanding is not necessarily the same as emotional integration. There are many different ways in which you can exercise command and control… and you might be doing it even if you say you don’t subscribe to it. The following are just a few examples that I frequently see in my consulting work:

  • Excessive ‘reporting back’ on points included in a project.
  • Too many reviews and rehearsals of presentations.
  • Pre-approval of certain types of communication outside official reporting lines.
  • Decision-making powers accumulated at the top of the organization chart.
  • Devolved responsibility, but with little budgetary room for execution.
  • Decision points centralised around formal meetings.

As I said, the paradox of control is that the more you let go of it, the more control you will have as there will be several ‘points of control’ scattered across the organization. If you think this is something you can’t afford, then that already tells you a lot about the kind of organization you have.


TOMORROW – don’t miss our final live webinar in the ‘A Better Way’ series, when Mark Storm [1] and I will discuss collective leadership in the post-Covid world – Register [2] now:


Build and enhance your  collective leadership capabilities

‘‘Collective Leadership’ [3] is that state in the evolution of management teams or leadership teams when the power of the collective leadership is far greater than the sum of the power of the individual leaders, and when the team exercises leadership as a single unit, not as a collection of individuals.’

At The Chalfont Project, we prefer the use of the term ‘practicing leadership’ to ‘developing’ it to emphasise the real life essence of leadership.
So much has been written that the world is full of recipes and techniques, examples and role models. The rich plethora of available answers obscures the need to have good questions. Reflection and introspection seem like logical ingredients for being a good leader, yet our business and organizational life treats them as luxuries that have no place in our ubiquitous ‘time famine’. Busy-ness has taken over business and leadership has been commoditised to a series of ‘how to’. Yet, there is hardly anything more precious in organizational life than the individual and collective leadership capabilities.


Join myself and Mark Storm from The Chalfont Project, as we discuss collective leadership in the post-Covid world. [2]

Live Webinar with Q&A – TOMORROW at 1730 BST/1830 CET