What it takes to be an Empowering Leader rather than a Micromanaging Boss

team building activities for employee engagement

Would you rather work for a boss who micromanages or a boss who empowers you?  

The transition that one makes from an employee to a leader is a colossal one and it requires a lot of mentor-ship and support. The qualities needed to become a  good leader take time to imbibe. The future leaders are still learning and working their way up. What if they don’t receive the correct guidance and navigation because their boss believes in micromanagement rather than empowerment?

This article is not about what happens to employees who deal with a micromanaging boss or what it takes to be a great leader by listing out all the qualities but rather it talks about the premises of why someone becomes a micromanaging boss and what it takes to make that much needed transition to a compassionate and empowering boss.

Sometimes people are thrust upon leadership roles when they still need time to evolve. They come with their own insecurities, beliefs and in-capacities.  

Case 1

For instance, due to great zeal and determination an employee does well at their job. At the next promotion, the targets are even bigger so the employee continues to push forward with even greater zeal to accomplish them, overcoming whatever comes in the way and finally managing to get the much deserved promotion. Eventually, the same person is now in a leadership role and has to lead a group of people. He now needs to guide his team to achieve their targets just the way he did. Would it be easy for him to interpret to that group of people, the same approach he used to reach where he is. Well, not really! Consequently the zeal that he showed in his work would be lacking in his team members. A manager might not able to convey his work approach to his team, ergo, a fear develops in the manager of not being able to succeed as a leader. When a leader who has learnt only to work the hard way faces the task to empower with words and actions, he’s bound to feel out of his element. He may not have developed people management skills along the way, hence he’s bound to resort to other means. That’s when most managers start micromanaging.

Micromanagement can be misconstrued by the employees at times. When a team is newly formed or a deadline is approaching then managers must take it upon themselves to assist the team. Newly appointed members require audience and nurturing until they are effectively aligned with the company’s goal. When an approaching deadline has to be met, without micromanagement the team members are bound lack in accountability and lack responsibility. Micromanagement can be used as an effective method until they are trained and realize their responsibilities.

Case 2

Here’s another instance about a workplace where employees were working in the sales department and their manager would call every hour to check if any sales had been made! The employees understood that their manager was in turn being pressurized by his superiors and other heads in the same way. And the pressure only trickled down to the employees. In cases like these micromanagement is almost inevitable. But, it has its downfalls, by the end of the quarter most of the employees from that department had quit the company. The ones that stayed were the tougher lot with a higher level of tolerance and they were going through the ordeal to make things work somehow. So micromanaging can be helpful at times but more often than not cause mayhem. It squarely depends on how well the employees handle the pressure.

There could be many other circumstances when a leader becomes a micro manager, maybe the way they were treated by their bosses during their tenure, the unsupported circumstances through which they navigated to become successful, fear of not being in control of the team,  the desire of being in power and successful at all times, constant pressure from the senior executives. But no matter the reason, micromanagement is just one of the sadistic traits of a leader.

Sometimes employees take too much time in completing their tasks, that’s one of the biggest causes of micromanagement for leaders. All things considered, nobody actually likes breathing down someone’s neck, nitpicking on every single detail, getting the work figures every hour! It’s not just frustrating and disrespectful but it essentially breeds a culture of hate and mistrust. 

A study by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business proved that employees who had more freedom at their work were less prone to stress-triggers and enjoyed a healthier lifestyle. The research data suggested that time pressure, controlling bosses, with a high degree of work concentration along with a poor work-life balance as some of the reasons for the employees being unproductive.

How does one transition from being a micromanaging boss to an empowering leader?

Strategy 1

Re-assurance and building trust over time from the employees’ side can help managers to become more trusting and stop micromanaging tasks. When an employee knows and is able to identify the underlying cause of the managers behavior, there is nothing wrong in an employee putting in effort and making things work between them. This endeavor need not be taken as a huge project or responsibility but, the employee can simply look for ways to deal with the situation maturely. It can be the prerogative of the employee to break the cycle of mistrust. This doesn’t mean that the leader is of any less capacity to lead but just has a particular flaw which they are unaware of and needs to be worked on. Employees can demonstrate compassion and trustworthiness with a manager that is unsure in his ability to lead. Here, we’re not talking about leaders who have inherently sadistic personalities who see pain as an effective teaching method. Sadly, many such individuals can be found in organizations around the world. 

Strategy 2

Communication is the best way to overcome such situations. Making such a manager is aware of his actions and being communicative about how it’s taking a toll on others would help in eliminating such a trait.  By breaking barriers and building trust, managers can soften up. Trust is a major factor here and a lot of work has to be done to build it. But it’s all for naught if the manager isn’t open to learning and accepting feedback.

Strategy 3

Incorporating Learning and Development programs can help in identifying the teams’ reason for poor performance, high rate of attrition and analyze if it’s due to micromanagement or any other element. These checks are performed by Learning and Development programs through various activities. These development programs can also teach and assist managers in shifting the balance from micromanagement to compassionate leadership through role-plays and other activities.

More likely than not, when a person builds a bridge he/she can help the other person evolve as well.  While doing so the managers will be able to understand that employees are taking the effort of building trust and will definitely be more willing to change their patterns. Thus, in some instances the employees can go a long way in helping to empower their boss.