Micromanagement or Leadership?

What some people call micromanagement is really leadership providing necessary accountability. And what some leaders call leadership is really micromanagement.

For example—when meeting with staff teams, I have often heard conflicting statements from both leaders and those they lead. A leader will say, “I wish I had people I could trust with greater leadership,” while a person he leads will say, “He micromanages me.”

How can these conflicting views be reconciled?

Ken Blanchard’s model of “situational leadership” challenges the leader to adapt to those he/she leads. I like Blanchard’s framework because it sets the leader as the servant, reminding us that Jesus led by serving. According to situational leadership thinking, if someone is highly competent and confident (Blanchard calls this D4), the leader should delegate authority and give lots of freedom. However, if someone is lower in competence (Blanchard calls this D1), the leader should provide ongoing direction and supervision with the intention of developing the person for the future.

Someone who is a D1 who thinks he is a D4 will think he is being micromanaged. So if you think your leader is micromanaging you, take an honest look at your competence. Have you delivered on what you said you would accomplish? Do you execute your job well? If your performance is less than stellar, the leader is wise to provide you more oversight and direction. To be honest, you need some D1 love. Your leader is being a wise steward in giving specific direction; a leader who treats a D1 like a D4 is guilty of leadership neglect.

On the other hand, someone who is a D4 thrives with more freedom and authority. If you are a leader with a high-capacity person who is fully committed to the organization/ministry and not his/her own agenda, it is horrific stewardship of time and gifting to treat the person as a D1. You may consider your specific and prescriptive directives as leadership when in reality you are micromanaging.

How can you reconcile these implications in your current context?

Ask your leader what areas of your role he/she views you as fully competent in, what aspects of your role need more coaching and supporting, and what aspects of your role needs specific and ongoing direction. If you lead others, match your leadership style to the development of those you lead.